With the passage of HB366, sponsored by Delegate James Malone, MD legislators have taken the lead prohibiting a local jurisdiction, with a specified exception, from adopting local amendments to the Maryland Building Performance Standards if the local amendments weaken specified automatic fire and sprinkler systems provisions contained in the Standards. The bill previously cleared the House and moved to the Senate. By a vote of 34-10 in the Senate, the bill carried the day in this chamber and now moves to the governor for his signature. All indications are that he will sign the bill and it will become law.
The fire service and other home fire sprinkler advocates are celebrating this victory; one that they worked very hard for according to Chief Jeffrey Thompson, President of the MD Fire Chiefs Association. In an e-mail announcing the passage of the bill, he added; “It is truly rewarding to finally see this come together. Many of us had said it was just a matter of when this was going to be accomplished and that day has come.”
This action by the State of MD is in stark contrast to what has occurred in other states, where home fire sprinkler opponents have pushed legislation to prohibit statewide adoption of the requirement. Sprinkler opponents’ arguments have not gone far in MD, a state with a long history of fire sprinkler requirements at the community level. Before the state adopted the 2009 IRC, including the requirement, 31 communities had previously adopted it by ordinance. In fact, a study comparing the housing cost and supply impacts of sprinkler ordinances, between counties in MD and VA, revealed there is absolutely no impact; and in one of the counties studied with a fire sprinkler requirement in place, there was an increase in building permits, compared to the neighboring county without the requirement.
Tim Travers, NFPA Fire Sprinkler Specialist for the Mid-Atlantic region congratulated the MD advocates adding: “I wish we could replicate your good work across the country!”