Question on campus style alarm systems



    I have a question for the forum. I have a number of customers with "campus-style" fire alarm systems. This is where there are multiple buildings (usually apartments) and in order to save money on monitoring & phone lines, they have installed a master fire alarm panel in the main building (usually the clubhouse) and tied the sub panels into that system, thereby only requiring one account and two phone lines. 

    Normally this is no problem, however I have an existing customer who originally had a setup like this but now they have a more complicated property situation where some of the buildings are now private condos and some are rentals, now managed by two different companies. They are still all tied into the same clubhouse panel but I'm wondering how this affects the existing contract (we only have one for the entire property as a whole) and also the occupancy requirements. Unfortunately, the AHJ has not been much help either in this particular location so far in indicating what the specific code requirements are. 





    I can't help but thinking that there is something wrong with the system design, but if the AHJ isn't going to inspect and issue violations then I suppose you may be covered.  Hopefully you have a permit and approval from the AHJ when the system was installed.  If not, I think you need to press for an inspection.

    Whoever your subscriber is, whoever is paying you, should be under contract.  If your system extends protection to non contracting parties then you need to get them under contract.  If a property owner sells off part of the property you can't continue to provide alarm service to both properties unless the new owner signs a contract.  

    If you believe that your system is not to code then I wouldn't wait for the AHJ to show up.  I would alert the sub in writing and insist that the system be updated.  A university would be hard pressed to ignore a letter from your pointing out the dangerous conditions on their property.


Comments On Positioning The Cameras


Dear Ken

    Like most of your readers, we read your column almost every day and appreciate its contents.

    We have a similar situation with regarding to CCTV. We have a subscriber who runs multiple convenience stores and other businesses; most of which have cameras. This particular request has to do with a garden type apartment complex in which one of the tenants is a known drug dealer. The landlord, our client, has requested we set up cameras to focus on their front and rear doors of this particular unit as well as some common area in the rear. Are there any guidelines you might provide or comments you can make to assist us in accessing any legal issues with this? The location is in PA if that bears any special issues.

Cary Dunlay, Sales Manager

Sentry Alarms LLC

Binghamton, New York 




    You can install the cameras as long as you are not intruding into the apartment.  Angle the camera so that it views the hallway, not right into the apartment.



    Have the owner install separate lockers for valuables and put a visible camera on them.

Alan Barnes



    Locker room camera. I can not imagine how do you plan to position camera to view only from chest up throughout an entire room and make sure the camera can not be moved. When employees steal from each other, they find way to jump on chair to "moon" the camera and there goes your privacy expectation law. Besides legal issues, how do you prevent towel thrown over the camera when they want to steal something. How would you even prove theft viewing only faces and not hands? Wouldn't stronger metal locker cabinets be a better choice? Can you install hasps and padlocks?     You can make money legal way.




    re: positioning cameras.  We got into quite a tussle with the neighbor of client for whom we had installed cameras in his yard.  We knew that he wanted to see his neighbor, and we specifically said we would not focus on the neighbor’s house or yard and installed them with the view ending at an appropriate spot.  We described the view on the sales contract.  Six months later, I was contacted by the neighbor, a former client of mine, who was threatening to sue me because he was convinced the cameras were looking directly at his  house and yard.  I told my former client that I couldn’t discuss my current client with him but agreed to contact my client and see what was going on.  My client had repositioned the cameras and they were, in fact, looking directly into the neighbor’s house and yard.  

    I called my former client back and told him he’d have to sue me if he wanted to, and that my company maintained a policy of not invading people’s privacy and I felt confident that we would not be held liable for what was going on between him and his neighbor.  I also encouraged both of them to grow up and work out their property fence dispute.       Nothing came of it in the end but I guess my point is that of course you cannot install cameras to look into the house or property of anyone other than the person buying the cameras.  

Jean Levenson




   Don't encourage anyone to sue you.



    Recently hit an issue with a camera in a lunch room in W.Va.  Company's lawyer  recommended moving the camera away from tables and closer to doors after he found clause in W. Va. labor law statute which could cause an issue 

    As far as locker/ changing etc. rooms no matter what you call them in my mind there of limits period  .

I agree with you I would pass . You can always put a camera outside room in hall  to see who is sneaking in and out during a game  practice or work period etc.  when no one should be in there. 

    Also know recording or even using  of cameras in Pa. Personnel Care Homes is illegal as well one of my clients wanted them and when i contacted state they said NO . However you may with permission put cameras in which do not record to allow just observation but permission is often denied.

    I just helped with such an install in a hospital mental health  ward.   Pa personnel care, group homes,mental health etc are under medical welfare act 43 # contractors need to know and heed what is in this act it overrides many laws and prohibits many items of security , card access etc in facility  you would normally use in a business .You could end up ripping out that $10,000.00 access system you just installed in hospital , group home etc if it violates act 43 

    One thing I frequently get asked is record audio on cameras and here in Pa. it requires  2 way consent  so no you may not do it I do not care what sign you put up  or what some one signs its NO.  State police and DA's office has made it very clear.   I know company's and installers  are flaunting it and risking civil as well as criminal felony charges by doing so.  Pa. has some of the strongest anti surveillance laws in country and you frequently hear of investigations and prosecutions.  A school district got into trouble after there buses cameras where discovered to have audio. 

    There are some very narrow defined exceptions for medical evaluations and diagnosis or police interrogation etc. and I still will not do these with out seeing a signed letter from medical establishments. Townships  attorney clearly defining what and how the cameras are being used for and how recording will be handled. if I have questions still I will run it by DA's office.   

Great news letter  best of luck. 



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