As the nation’s capital, Washington D.C. has a lot going for it. It’s situated in such a way as to make most the East Coast’s main attractions within easy reach by car or airplane. It’s the seat of power for the entire country, and some might argue the most powerful place in the world. Food options in the city are plentiful, and if you’re a recent college graduate, you’ll find that jobs are not only high-paying, but extremely well-connected. But all that power concentrated in one place makes D.C. very attractive for crooks of all stripes (you know what we mean). Crime rates in Washington D.C. are unfortunately some of the worst in the country. With over 600,000 people squeezed into the very tiny city limits, home security in Washington D.C. is an absolute must.
Home Security Provider Requirements for Washington, D.C.
One might think that Washington D.C.’s small size would make it one of the most uncomplicated places for home security rules and regulations. If you think that, you don’t know D.C. Gridlock of all stripes is almost an essential part of doing business in our nation’s capital city. It also doesn’t help that Congress must approve many forms of legislation passed by the city government, making D.C. perhaps the worst place to live if you like uncomplicated governments with limited bureaucracies. But for those of you who prefer to live in a place where bureaucracy rules the day, D.C. and its home security provider regulations won’t disappoint!
Despite only having two laws governing home security providers, DC ‘s rules are chock full of bureaucratic goodness. The primary law regulating home security providers does have a lot of good things in it. We won’t deny that fact. But if you’re a provider hoping to weasel your way into the market, be prepared to have your application used in a game of ping pong back and forth between different government agencies. Here’s the skinny on this law: alarm “agents” and alarm “dealers” (which covers anyone involved with either selling or installing home security devices) in the District of Columbia must obtain a license. Applications must be submitted directly to the Mayor of the city with a non-refundable $300 application fee. Now, by “Mayor”, we’re 100% certain that this means “the Mayor’s office.” Then again, who knows? Some mayors may prefer to be very hands on with these kinds of things.
That application must come with fingerprints for anyone intending to go into people’s homes and sell them an alarm, or install their alarm. Ostensibly, this means mostly everyone that the security provider is employing. That application, and the fingerprints, are then cross-referenced by the Chief of Police. The Chief of Police must then send them to the FBI, who will do an extensive background check. The FBI will then send this information back to the Chief of Police, who will in turn return the information to the Mayor, who will in turn determine whether or not a license will be issued. Phew. Welcome to D.C.
Thankfully, D.C. seems to share a lot in common with Illinois in regards to how they treat the potential licensees. The law is designed to prevent anyone who has a recent criminal history from becoming licensed in an industry that takes them directly into people’s homes. That’s a completely understandable and rational approach (something that many might consider to be a rare treat in D.C.). Anyone who has been convicted of a felony within the previous 10 years, or was convicted of a crime involving the taking of property within the past 5 years, is ineligible for a license. That’s comforting.
There are also some other, rare-to-find rules on home security providers that are very interesting. All contracts must be delivered in writing. All providers must give customers a decal to go outside of their home that has the company name and the company’s phone number. All providers must teach customers how to use the system. All providers must agree to respond when an alarm goes off, within an hour after receiving notification from the police. Despite the many hoops they have to jump through to get licensed in the state, it is clear that Washington D.C. takes home security very seriously, something that is very commendable for the nation’s capital, and a city with a property crime rate that is nearly double that of the national average.
There are even some minute details in DC’s alarm laws that might make one chuckle a bit. One part of the law, for example, specifically states that alarms are not allowed to sound like emergency vehicles. That same section also dictates that “The Mayor is authorized to deactivate any exterior audible alarm system which continues to emit a sound for more than one-half hour.” This drums up humorous images of a pajama-clad mayor personally pulling wires to shut off an annoying alarm at 2 in the morning. If only this were the case. The city makes the details of this law easily available, which again is commendable as many cities make this information extremely difficult to find. All told, if you do plan on getting a security system installed in D.C., and assuming the government is following its own regulations, you can expect to get very trustworthy home security services.
Security Camera Laws and Regulations in Washington DC
You might want to take a moment to give Washington D.C. a well-deserved slow clap. This city is one of the few (and perhaps the only) city in the country that actively encourages citizens to get home security cameras installed. We’re not talking about simply giving an allowance. We mean direct and open admonishing of its citizens to get home security cameras. The Metropolitan Police Department even has this wonderful phrase on their website: “Help the Police Protect Your Home or Business and Solve Crimes”. Fancy that! A police department that wants you putting up cameras!
The information page provided by the MPD has everything you’ll need to know about how to get a camera installed, how to handle registration with the police, how to deal with any potential ramifications of putting up a camera or four, and even what you should do if your cameras catch a crime in the action. There are even handy CCTV placards of various sizes that you can download, right from the police department’s website. Understand, of course, that part of this is the city’s tacit acknowledgement that the D.C. has a very, very big crime problem, one that is overloading their resources. The city has an increasingly difficult time trying solving every crime that is committed, and has resorted to these tactics in order to help themselves. Nevertheless, the real winners here are the citizens who want to protect themselves and their communities from burglars and other would-be criminals.
It is still important to note that, despite the active encouragement from the city’s police, privacy laws common across the country still apply. You can’t use these cameras to invade someone’s privacy. Peephole cameras installed to catch people undressed are clearly and definitely against the law. Audio recording is still something you’ll want to take a long time considering, as wiretapping laws seem to cover recording of conversations you were not privy to in a somewhat anachronistic way. Nevertheless, if you want to put up a camera you can do so, not simply with our blessing but with that of your own city police department. How’s that for comfort and joy?
Safety During Natural Disasters in DC
Despite the notorious rumor that DC was built on a swamp (note: it wasn’t), the city tends to be fairly problem free when it comes to Nature’s wrath. While some might think (insert politician here) would equate to a natural disaster hitting the capital, the reality is that D.C. is one of the safest places in the country to live if you’re voting for a disaster-free year. That said, D.C.’s location on the Eastern seaboard makes it prone to the occasional hurricane, Nor’easter and severe thunderstorms. All of these are not uncommon in other places, but somehow D.C. seems to respond the most negatively to even the smallest adverse weather patterns. Safety during natural disasters in the nation’s capital starts with a cool head followed by sound preparedness.
Take snow storms, for example. Snow is highly unpredictable in DC. Even the hint of a snowflake can sometimes shut the entire government down, and an inch of snow can result in hours of backed up traffic for miles. Let’s talk about some rational ways to deal with the “disaster” of snow in Washington D.C. First, you’ll want to avoid going out to drive, regardless of how much snow is out there, and regardless of whether or not you forgot to buy the bread and milk. As stated, even an inch of the fluffy stuff can shut down the roadways, and you may find yourself stuck for hours on end. Because D.C. area residents spend more time in their cars than in most other locations, it’s best to carry emergency supplies in your car. Flashlights, extra food, drinkable water, blankets, spare clothes. All of these will be essential if you find yourself stuck in your car only 15 miles from home, which is not uncommon in D.C. during a winter storm. These emergency items should obviously be kept in your home as well, but having extras in your car will help you survive that next 9-hour commute that should have only taken you 30 minutes, all because people in the most powerful city on Earth seem to lose all common sense when it comes to actually driving in the snow! Deep breath now. Find your inner peace.
People lose power almost yearly in D.C. due to severe thunderstorms. These are common in the summer, and D.C.’s geographic location makes them almost a yearly event. When the power does go out (and it will), make sure you have what you need. Extra water is a must, as well as extra food that does not need to be cooked. Consider investing in a portable generator if you don’t already have one and you already live in a location where you can use one. Likewise, you may want to invest in a cooler to store perishable food items in. Your fridge may stay cold for a while, but with no power it’s going to lose heat, fast, especially if you keep opening it. The freezer section will stay cold for longer, but you most likely won’t have space in the freezer for everything that might go bad. It’s also best to throw any food out that might have gone bad during the time that you lost power, to avoid food poisoning of course.
Occasionally, D.C. is hit by the last remnants of hurricanes. When Hurricane Sandy blew through, it knocked out power and downed trees across the region. Because D.C. is so far up the coast, by the time hurricanes do hit they’ve often lost so much energy that they’re downgraded to a Category 1 or just tropical storms. Still, treat them as you would treat a major thunderstorm. High winds are common, so stay away from windows. Make sure you have the same emergency items as you would in the case of a power outage. Be cognizant of flood potential in your area. If you live in an area prone to flooding, keep an eye on conditions around your home. Stay at the top level of your house, and check flood warnings regularly.
Washington D.C. is certainly the seat of power for the U.S., but it’s also fraught with its own share of problems. Crime is rampant in the streets, and although most crimes occur in the Southeast and Southwest portions of the city, trouble often spills over to all parts. Investing in a good home security system is almost a must, and the city does a fairly good job of making sure you’re getting good service. However, exercise caution if a storm strikes. With power outages commonplace after major storms, your home may well become easy picking.