Maryland mandates residential fire sprinklers

The NFSA was one of the groups working to get the legislation passed
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Monday, May 21, 2012

PATTERSON, N.Y.—New homes built in Maryland will be required to have fire sprinklers beginning this fall, the result of new legislation signed into law by that state’s governor May 2.

The National Fire Sprinkler Association, based here, was part of a years-long effort to get such a requirement approved. The NFSA recently announced the development on its website, saying, “Congratulations to all who worked so hard to get this legislation passed. Our hats are off to Gov. [Martin] O’Malley for making the safety of Maryland’s citizens a top priority.”

O’Malley signed legislation that amends the current Maryland Building Performance Standards to prohibit local jurisdictions from excluding automatic fire sprinkler system requirements for townhouses and one- and two-family dwellings.

Doug Alexander, a firefighter who helped spearhead the effort as chairman for many years of the Residential Sprinkler Committee of the Maryland State Firemen’s Association, told Security Systems News that the governor’s action “essentially … is going to require any homes built in the state of Maryland after Oct. 1 to have residential fire sprinklers.”

Alexander said the law’s only exception was for homes that don’t have electricity, which he said was included accommodate the Amish population in Maryland, who shun many aspects of modern life.

The state this year adopted the 2012 edition of the International Residential Code as part of its building performance standards, Alexander said. The IRC requires fire sprinklers in new homes, he said.

However, he said, Maryland state law allowed municipalities to opt out of any provision of the building standards, except for provisions having to do with energy conservation and efficiency.

So, Alexander said, “this year the bill we introduced and was passed through both houses of the Legislature and was signed by the governor added another paragraph … that would not allow [local communities] to opt out of the residential sprinkler standards contained in the IRC.”

A number of organizations worked with the state firemen’s association over the years in pushing for requiring residential sprinklers, the NFSA among them, Alexander said. “The NFSA got on board and provided everything they could,” he said. “If we gave them a call, they found a way to support us in one way or another.”