Here’s a secret you may not know: There’s more to Georgia than peaches and Atlanta. Granted, you’re likely to find a lot of peaches in the state, and Atlanta is a fairly big draw, but Georgia is one of the most populated states in the country. Although we’ll admit that about a fifth of that population lives in Atlanta, there’s a whole, huge state out there, ready and waiting for its overdue recognition. The majestic Tallulah Gorge highlights the state’s natural beauty, while the Montaluce Winery showcases the state’s dedication to the finer things in life. Still, Georgia is as humble as peach pie, and cities like Macon and Madison present Georgia’s fantastic Southern roots. Nonetheless, all of that Southern charm can easily be marred by a few bad eggs. Georgia’s property crime rates sit slightly above the national median, including burglaries. Living in Georgia can certainly make one feel like a part of history, but ignoring the need for home security in Georgia could make your safety a thing of the past.
Home Security Provider Requirements for Georgia
Whether you just purchased a home in Georgia or you’ve been living in the state for a while, you’re likely doing two things: Eating cornbread and thinking about home security. Ok, maybe you’re not doing either of those, but we hope that you’re doing at least one of them, and more specifically, the second one. Depending on where in Georgia you live, your home is either mostly safe (although no home is ever completely safe) or you’re sitting right in the middle of a burglar’s paradise. Take Atlanta, for example. We’re not bullying you, Atlanta, we just want you to know: your crime numbers are through the roof. In fact, burglary rates in Atlanta are just about 2.5 times that of the national median, and overall property crime rates are about double what you’ll find in Georgia on average. Yikes. Not that you Georgians didn’t already know that, of course. But it raises a fair question: If you’re living in one of Georgia’s cities, or around them, who ya gunna call? Definitely not the Ghostbusters.
Home security providers are everywhere in the state, but most are, quite predictably, centered around the major metropolitan areas. With so much property crime occurring, home security is big business in the “Wisdom, Justice, Moderation,” state.
Unfortunately, Georgia, your state government seems to have taken “moderation” to the extreme. There are very few state regulations on home security providers. The state does require home security providers to obtain a license (yay!), but only for the purpose of proving that they are capable of installing low-voltage electronic equipment in homes (oh…). On the bright side, these licenses are not a rubber stamp for endless business, and providers do have to reapply for them every few years.
However, Georgia follows in the footsteps of such states as Tennessee and Florida when it comes to alarm monitoring. Georgia, like some of its neighbors, has passed laws that disallow direct contact between home alarms and emergency personnel. The reason here is exactly what you’re thinking: money and manpower. Because it takes time and money to send police or firefighters to every home that has an alarm go off, and because Georgia has such a large population, they’ve decided to pull the rug from under the free false alarm party. As much as you might want them to come at a moment’s notice, the new law wags its peach-covered fingers at you and says “I don’t think so, bub.” There are a few stipulations in the law, of course. If a burglary or robbery can be verified with audio or video, the security monitoring agency contracted by your home security provider does not need to try to contact you several times before calling the police. The same goes for if your roof is quite literally on fire. Nevertheless, home security companies must have monitoring services in place, which can either be themselves or an outside contractor, depending on how they have set things up.
Locally, most municipalities require alarm systems to be registered. This is so the police and fire departments know exactly who is in your home and how to respond. As expected, you can expect to face fines if you have false alarms, although Georgia is a bit more kind than many other states. That said, Georgia’s municipalities are less specific and uniform in their application of said fines. Atlanta, for example, uses a false alarm monitoring software called CryWolf that tracks false alarms and issues fines automatically based on the number of false alarms. Registration is free. Fines are not. Savannah, on the other hand, uses an outside company to monitor their false alarms, and hands out somewhat hefty fines if your false alarms start stacking up.
So while those of you who call Georgia home can sleep comfortably knowing that you have plenty of access to home security providers, you may not sleep as easily knowing that they are not heavily regulated in what they can and cannot do. Yes, they’ll be good electricians. But there are no laws in place to ensure that they do not stiff you on service. Well, beyond the normal, run-of-the-mill business practice laws. And more bad news, there’s not a peep out of Georgia over the actual hiring practices for home security providers. Some states, such as Illinois and Texas, are very restrictive on that end. Georgia is most certainly not one of them.
Home Security Camera Laws – Georgia Style
Ok, so perhaps you’re feeling a bit uneasy over the lack of regulation in Georgia for home security providers. That’s understandable. Now you’re thinking that maybe a few security cameras could help out. After all, even if the guy who has installed your system is now the one using your code to break in, at least you’ll have all the evidence you need on camera, right? Not so fast there my dear Georgian friend. You may want to take a few precautions before you start turning your house into the Big Brother shack.
Let’s start with audio. Georgia is one of the “one-party consent” states when it comes to audio recording. This means that as long as one person in a conversation agrees to have their conversation recorded, then it’s allowable. This could mean you or someone else involved in the conversation has agreed to its recording. But if your security camera picks up a conversation that you weren’t involved in, even if that conversation is happening off camera, you could find yourself subject to wiretapping laws. Yikes. As if burglary wasn’t enough of a concern, right? The advice we give here is the same for pretty much every state, as wiretapping laws are fairly uniform across the country. If you’re going to put up security cameras, don’t have audio. It’s just not worth the risk. Many local and state governments are beginning to rethink how they approach wiretapping laws, but they’re still on the books and still being in enforced. Better safe than sorry.
Video is a different story. If your security cameras are hidden, you need to be careful. Georgia has a special provision in their wiretapping laws that cover hidden cameras. In it, Georgia makes it illegal to “observe, photograph, or record the activities of another which occur in any private place and out of the public view.” And in case you’re wondering, in this case, Georgia applies an “everyone has to agree to be recorded” rule. At its heart, this law is meant to prevent voyeurism. In reality, it could mean that your nanny cam is a bad idea. Your best bet for security cameras on or in your home is to make them visible, make sure everyone knows they are there, and to only put them or point them at public places.
Safety During Natural Disasters in Georgia
The hurricane winds and waters are heaving themselves dramatically in your direction, Georgia! Now may be the time to run, hide, hold your children, perhaps say a few prayers. Hyperbole aside, Georgia is prone to more than its fair share of weather patterns that can cause some serious damage. Flood waters are not uncommon in the state, tornados can find their way to the ground, and hurricanes do tend to favor the southeastern coastal areas a bit too much. Staying safe during any natural disaster starts with preparation, but different types of preparation are needed for every natural disaster.
In general, Georgians should have emergency plans in place and emergency kits prepared. While you’re not going to have to worry about Mount St. Helens blowing its top off, you may have to worry about a hurricane brewing along the coast. Hurricanes can level houses in a matter of minutes, if the winds are strong enough, and can cause some severe flooding for those in coastal regions. If that’s you, you’re going to want to make sure you’re ready for what comes. This includes having extra food, clothing, water and flashlights ready. Hurricanes can knock the power out fairly quickly, and the need to eat, drink and see what’s happening in a dark house can be very important.
For a hurricane, try to avoid areas of the house with windows. Hurricane winds can knock windows out completely. Also avoid places in the house that are too low if you are in a flood zone. The last place you want to be if a flood comes along is in the basement of your house riding out the storm. Be in a place where you can be visually aware of flooding around you. If flooding starts to occur in the midst of a hurricane, do not leave the house. Get to the highest point inside of the house that you can.
Treat tornadoes with a bit of a different approach. You won’t have to worry about flooding, but you may have to worry about power outages and walls crashing in around you. For a tornado, get to the lowest possible point in the house, preferably a basement or a cellar. A location with few windows is always best, and in the case that it does have windows, stay as far away from them as possible. Hide under and behind heavy objects that can shield you from blown out windows. Tornadoes can knock out power fairly quickly, so access to flashlights is a necessity. Thankfully, tornadoes tend to affect smaller areas than their hurricane counterparts, so the need for extra food, water and clothing is less severe, although still something to seriously consider, especially if you live in a rural area without easy access to public resources.
Living in Georgia requires one to accept a few things. First, it’s going to be hot in the summer. You’ll just have to accept that fact. Second, you need to find some time to enjoy the state. Georgia has far too many natural and historical treats to ignore. And of course, the most important thing to remember is to load up on peaches every year. After all, Georgia isn’t the Peach State for nothing. This also involves ignoring South Carolina’s rabid claims of being the #1 peach exporter. Ignore all pretenders. Finally, understand that living in the state means you’re not as safe as you might be in other states. Home security is as good an idea as avoiding I-285 through Atlanta rush hour. Well, maybe almost as good.