Our homes are our sanctuary, a place where we can have respite from the world. As such, we want our residences to feel safe and secure, protected from the vagaries of the outside world. Communities are increasingly focusing on safety measures to ensure that our homes and our families are protected and safe.
Today there exists a broad range of options for securing and monitoring our homes, as technology continues to advance. Although having sophisticated safe guards to protect our communities is desirable, it is important that they do not go overboard and threaten our privacy.
Co-op and condo communities have shifted from a reliance on security personnel to automated access control and visual monitoring.
“People were originally satisfied with a rover going around and checking doors and things like that,” says Jonathan Louis, LCAM, CMCA, AMS, president and CEO of American Management Group in Pembroke Pines. “We’ve almost seen an increase in security awareness since the economy crashed in the mid-2000s. There’s more attention to it now. We’re seeing monitoring cameras in garages, parking lots and common areas.”
Camera use has increased, often times used simply as a visual deterrent. Because of costs, “there’s probably a little less physical presence and more access control and video surveillance,” says Ron Orasi, general manager of Universal Protection Services, which serves South Florida and the Caribbean.
“Folks who have the funds do both,” says Louis, referring to both on-site security and remote surveillance. “If the gate house person can watch the monitors, then that’s great. You have a person at the front desk acting as a deterrent who can also monitor the cameras.”
The question of liability also comes up when discussing what type of security system to implement within a community. It is important that resident’s realize that security cameras may not be actively monitored. That way, they do not have a false expectation that they will be rescued if they are in trouble. “There’s liability if there is a camera in place and no one is monitoring it,” says Louis. “That has to be addressed.” In that instance, the camera must state that it is actively recording, but not necessarily being monitored.
New community security programs will need to be approved as implementation must be within budget. Sometimes, special assessments may be required to raise funds for security initiatives.
“If the cost of a new security measure is over a certain amount of money, then the board will have to get multiple bids,” Louis says.
Outside of questions of finance, the board is under no obligation to get resident’s approval on new security measures, he says. “The board is supposed to act on behalf of the residents’ best interests, so they can bid on the initiatives and vote on it in a public meeting, so people know what’s going on.”
“Every owner in a community,” Louis says, “has the right to know what’s going on—so let residents know on a monthly or quarterly basis. It reduces contention if people feel that they’re in the loop.”
“People seem more safety conscious now,” he says. “They want well-lit areas, and they want cameras in place.” Privacy issues come up far more often, he adds, when discussing questions of surveillance on the state and federal level, and other issues fresh from the national headlines.
A good security plan needs regular updating to remain effective. “All the vulnerabilities of a community should be examined annually,” says Louis. “Not just the hurricane plan, but all of its vulnerabilities, including security. The plan should be looked at once a year at least. And there are experienced companies that can go over those plans” with boards, adjusting their approach to fit the community’s current needs.
Security and privacy are two sides of the same coin. With proper communication, both can exist beneficially.