As County Works on Changing County Code Related to Sprinklers, Officials Diagree About the Requirement for Duplexes

Cecil County Commissioners Meeting, Feb 8th, 2011 – The commissioners once again worked on legislative matters related to changing a section of the county code requiring the installation of sprinklers systems in all new single family dwellings.  To kick off deliberations, Commissioner Hodge distributed a draft of language he is proposing.  His colleagues mulled over the details on that as they worked with county’s code officials to understand the impact of the changes.

On the part of the draft ordinance that allows homeowners to opt out of having the automatic fire suppression systems installed, but requires contractors to make a good faith effort to inform clients about costs, benefits, and availability all members agreed on that change.  While they mulled this over, Commissioner Hodge and Dunn both stated they didn’t believe the county should be dictating these types of safety requirements for single family dwellings.   

But when they got around to sorting out language related to a duplex, that was a different matter.   President Mullin and Vice-President Broomell argued that the life-saving technology should be mandatory for these types of dwellings, while Commissioners Hodge, Moore, and Dunn supported opt out.

That generated an extended discussion with three county building code officials as they talked about fire separations, fire walls, the definition of duplex, and how code changes in one place affect other sections.  In some instances if something was changed in one area, it created different requirements elsewhere.  An egress window was one example, the professionals pointed out.  With the vote on this piece of the law standing at three to two in favor of opt out for a duplex, the only challenge was figuring out how to word the regulation.

Things were getting complex as they discussed how a fire wall had to meet certain rigorous standards, while the requirements for a separation was another matter.  Then there were questions about what the changes did to other sections of the building code, the building  staff remarked.   It was growing tangled so the board handed it to the professionals to sort out.  They’d heard the outcome the commissioners want, so they’re to draft language that supports that approach and bring it back for review. 

In wrapping things up Commissioner Moore noted that her concern was with giving the homeowner the right to choose.  “I’ve done my research and they are effective,” she added.  “They save lives.” 

There’s still plenty of work to be done on getting the code change completed to the satisfaction of the board, so this matter will be discussed at future meetings.

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4 responses to “As County Works on Changing County Code Related to Sprinklers, Officials Diagree About the Requirement for Duplexes

  1. I think you should require them in ALL rental properties, first of all.
    At very minimum hard wired battery back up smoke and carbon alarms.
    it should be part of your requirements that any property being built must have both sprinklers and hardwire. No opt out; it’s not up for debate, just do it!!!
    Any property being renovated over 50% as well
    It’s a no brainer, it saves lives.
    Telling people they must do all they can to save their own self/family is the way it is.
    look at seat belts, will it hurt the guy in the other car, or the guy in the market shopping in the next town over if I get in an accident and am stupid enough to opt out of wearing a seat belt? NO! but the law says we have to protect life, even our own.
    Mandatory! and be done ,why him hall and beat around the bush, just do it.
    most people think sprinklers are these ugly saw blade looking things sticking out of the ceiling, they are not , they are so advanced, they pop out when needed, they almost look like a small round blank cover, barely even noticeable on the ceilings.
    Your job is a thankless job because you have to make decisions like this, and even when you make popular decisions its not good enough, so decide safety, at least you can sleep at night, and honestly so will the people who would have opted out. Who knows maybe the homeowners insurance companies will give discounts to those who have it.
    Plus the cost will come down when so many must have it and then the question of opt out will be null and void.
    Just do it.. They will hate you now and thank you later.

    • Ray thanks for sharing your perspective. We remember when regulations were first being considered for seat belts, smoke detectors, and motorcycle helmets too. There was so many arguments against those, but they’ve made society a safer place and reduced costs, in things such as trauma care.

      I think Cecil County’s approach to the latest modification of the sprinkler ordinance is a done deal. While they disagreed about duplexes, they all agree about the specifics of not requiring sprinklers.

      But thanks for sharing your insight.

      BTW, we noted that Commissioner Moore said she would install sprinklers in a dwelling if she were to purchase a new house. She came to that conclusion after researching the matter and determining that sprinklers save lives, are effective, and maintenance is not a major obstacle. But she too still favors the right to decide, but we appreciate the fact-finding she did, as there were so way too many myths being spread around about the systems.

  2. Joey the OSHA Inspector

    You and the Red Righer should get over this sprinkler thing. It’s old news. The commissioners allready decided all this. Stop reporting it like it just happened. You & the Red are just grinding your own axe. I was at the meeting and you say it like it happened Tuesday. Look at the agenda if you want to see what they discussed.

    [remark removed by Someone Noticed]

    • Joey the OSHA Inspector.

      That extended converation took place Tuesday in the commissioners workshop. Ask to see the minutes from the meeting when they ‘re published in a few weeks. As to why, the discussion about the ordinance wasn’t on the agenda, we can’t say. Perhaps you should call the commissioners, as it was a long informative discussion that was informative to us. There were three code officials present to help the commissioners sort out the language in the law they’re getting ready to change, a draft of the changes was passed out to the elected officails and there was a lot of back and forth.

      This is another reason why we should support broadcasting, streaming (whatever the details) of all the commissioners meetings, so stakeholders and citizens can participate in govenrment in informed ways.

      As for Red Righter, he’s off on his own agenda. Someone Noticed does not agree with Red Righter at all on the sprinkler question. He’s getting way too much information from barrooms. There were more than enough myths and pieces of misinformation presented about sprinklers at the public hearing, so we’ll stick to more authoratative sources.

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