North New Jersey.com reports that legislation to require sprinkler systems in new homes passed a New Jersey Assembly panel Monday. As posited in the article, this is sure to reignite the debate between the life safety community and special interests.
Opponents of the measure will surely use the same old tired argument that this minimum life safety feature in new homes is not “worth the added cost amid a staggering economy” despite proof to the contrary revealed in a research study comparing the impact of home fire sprinkler requirements between counties in Maryland that adopted the measure and counties that did not. The study found that fire sprinkler requirements in new one- and two-family homes and townhomes have no negative impact in housing supply and cost.
The bill (A3278), would mandate that the state Department of Community Affairs deny occupancy permits for new one- and two-family homes unless they are equipped with a sprinkler system. An identical bill, S2287, filed in Sept. 2010 has languished in committee.
Timothy Travers, NFPA’s Fire Sprinkler Specialist for the Mid-Atlantic Region, testifying during the Assembly Housing and Local Government Committee hearing, asserted that "building homes without fire sprinklers equates to building substandard housing." This declaration is crucial and must be included in every testimony for the record. The 2006 editions of NFPA 1, NFPA 101, and NFPA 500 included the requirement. With its inclusion in the 2009 IRC, the requirement is found in every national model code. Model codes represent minimum standards of safety to achieve reasonable levels of protection to life. A building code that adopts the IRC and amends this requirement is allowing substandard housing to be built since January 1, 2011.
Notice to adopt the 2009 I-Codes, including the one- and two-family sprinkler provisions, were signed off and delivered to the Office of Administrative Law to be published in the New Jersey Registry back in February, 2010, where it sat awaiting an executive decision by the governor.
Shortly thereafter Governor Christie issued an executive order freezing and suspending all administrative rules for 90 days.The home fire sprinkler requirement was included in this moratorium althought the order made it clear that it must not apply to matters that “adversely impact public safety or security". The issue was covered here in a previous post titled "New Jersey home fire sprinkler requirement caught up in "red tape". In March 2010, I posted "A perspective on home fire sprinkler regulation freeze in New Jersey" where Mr. David Kurasz, Executive Director of the NJ Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board (NJFSAB), implied that there were special interests at work in the delay.
This life-safety regulation was nullified by an executive order of Governor Chris Christie, despite the approval of the NJ State Code Advisory Board, the Department of Community Affairs, and the governor’s own Red Tape Review Commission.
Life safety advocates working cooperatively through the New Jersey Fire Sprinkler Coalition have worked feverishly against the governor’s action. The NJ coalition has achieved a much needed victory with this recent developent in the New Jersey Assembly panel. If you are a life safety advocate from NJ reading this, you are encouraged to contact the coalition and get involved.
NFPA has lent its support to the NJ coalition, and will continue to do so. We can only hope that special interests do not trump life safety once more. Stay tuned…