Fake Smoke Detectors

Q: Are fake smoke detectors permitted to be installed in a hospital according to NFPA codes and standards? I discovered that our Security department installed a manufactured security camera that is built into a fake smoke detector and the question is whether or not the NFPA codes and standards permit this. These security cameras/fake smoke detectors are mounted on the ceiling and look like the real thing.

A: No, they are not permitted based on multiple regulatory reasons. First of all, most states have regulations that prohibit fake smoke detectors. The state where you are located has the following regulation: “New criminal penalties will be in effect as of January 1, 2009, for persons who manufacture, install or sell any device or object that appears to be a smoke detector, sprinkler head, carbon monoxide alarm, heat detector or any other similar device used for life safety or fire protection but in fact is not capable of performing such function.” Secondly, section of the 2000 Life Safety Code says: “Existing life safety features obvious to the public, if not required by the Code, shall be either maintained or removed.” Now, this section does not specifically prohibit a fake smoke detector, but it does prohibit inoperative life safety devices. The Annex section addresses this much better than I could explain it: “A. Examples of such features include automatic sprinklers, fire alarm systems, standpipes, and portable fire extinguishers. The presence of a life safety feature, such as sprinklers or fire alarm devices, creates a reasonable expectation by the public that these safety features are functional. When systems are inoperable or taken out of service but the devices remain, they present a false sense of safety.” The annex addresses the ‘reasonable expectation’ (underline mine) of protection that could bring liability concerns to the owner. If your state or local authority prohibits the fake smoke detector, then it is not permitted. If the state or local authority does not have a regulation prohibiting it, then I would say a fake smoke detector is not permitted as it provides a reasonable expectation by the public that the device is functional. Even if the fake detector with a security camera is mounted next to a real smoke detector that is operable, I would have problems with the fake one since it is obvious to the public and it is inoperative.