As Deadline Approaches, Maryland Towns Put off Sprinkler Decision ~

The 2009 International Residential Code includes a mandate for single-family homes to include automatic fire suppression sprinkler systems. Many coastal states have already opted to remove the sprinkler requirement when adopting the model code. Maryland code authorities have adopted the 2009 IRC with the sprinkler mandate intact - but towns have the option of removing the requirement at the local level. But the deadline for towns to decide is January 1, 2011 - the day the new code will take effect statewide. And according to press reports, some local officials are on the fence about how to proceed. In Berlin, the town council held hearings in November, but put off a vote until mid-December, reports the Ocean Pines Independent ( "Sprinkler decision put on hold," by Charlene Sharp). Worcester County Fire Marshal Jeff McMahon told the Berlin council that sprinklers would activate to suppress a fire within 90 seconds, far faster than a fire department could respond, and use less water to put the fire out than a fire department would require. But Patricia Taylor of the Coastal Association of Realtors and John Kotoski of the Eastern Shore Builders Association argued against the requirement, saying it would drive up the cost of housing. The story was much the same in Hagerstown, reported the Hagerstown Herald-Mail (" City Council still divided on sprinklers," by Kate S. Alexander). In October, Hagerstown Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II vetoed a council measure to require sprinklers only in single-family homes larger than 3,000 square feet, arguing that the rule would raise the cost of homes and was an overreach by the government (" Bruchey vetoes mandate for sprinklers in new Hagerstown homes," by Kate S. Alexander). A watered-down version of the measure, which would require sprinklers in two-family homes but not in single-family homes, passed the Hagerstown council by a 3-2 vote. Mayor Bruchey has not said whether he will sign or veto the modified measure. But for any towns that fail to act by January first, Maryland code will require sprinklers in all new homes, even small single-family houses.