January 29, 2014

Hidden Smoke Detector Cameras Can Get You in Hot Water

We have all seen them. Smoke detectors..or cameras that look like smoke detectors. How can you tell the difference? Many times you cannot. Many of these cameras are just that – cameras and are really non-functional smoke detectors. But did you know as a business owner using these hidden cameras can get you in a lot of hot water with the local fire marshal or worse yet the Attorney General?

Business owner feels the heat
One such local business owner felt the wrath of the AG’s office for selling such a device to the public. Former New York State Attorney General Elliot Spitzer announced an agreement with a Western New York electronic security equipment retailer to recall surveillance cameras designed to look like smoke detectors.

The AG’s released this statement:A smoke detector has one purpose and that is to protect people against fires,” Spitzer said. “Keeping non-working fire detectors with hidden cameras off the market protects the public from a false sense of security and a very real invasion of their privacy.

The Henrietta Fire Marshal advised the retailer that “the installation of non-operational smoke detectors violates the New York State Fire Code.”

The retailer agreed to recall all non-working smoke detectors with cameras. They agreed to contact purchasers, entities and individuals who purchased the non-working smoke detectors through catalogs, and to provide operational replacements. The agreement also required the store to place advertisements in a Western New York newspaper notifying consumers of the recall. A $1,500 civil penalty to the state was mandated.

The law is specific
Fake smoke detectors have presented problems in the past and as a result many states have laws to address this concern. For example:

New York State Fire Code Chapter 9 (901.4.4) reads: Fire and Safety Requirements Appearance of Equipment:Any device that has the physical appearance of life safety or fire protection equipment but that does not perform that life safety or fire protection function, shall be prohibited.

California revised their fire code to address this concern. Fire Code section 901.4.4 Appearance of equipment:  “Any device that has the physical appearance of life safety or fire protection equipment but that does not perform that life safety or fire protection functions shall be prohibited.”

Most state codes use international fire and life safety codes from the International Code Council (ICC)as well as the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

Perception is reality
To illustrate just how “perception is reality” take a look at these two images. The one on the left is a covert smoke detector camera and the one on the right is a smoke detector. To the layperson, the difference would not be evident.

Which on is the cameraIf you are planning to install or have installed a covert surveillance system, do your homework or consult with a security and life safety professional who specializes in the local, state and national fire codes.

Remember: If it looks like a smoke detector – it had better be a smoke detector,

For more information, feel free to contact one of our licensed professionals here at Keystone Security Systems at (585) 730-8324 or at