R.I. Fire Code Panel Focuses on Sprinkler, Alarm Costs

The debate over the fire safety codes that Rhode Island adopted after the fire at The Station nightclub continued in April at the second hearing of the 2007-08 House Oversight Commission to Study the Ramifications of the Fire Safety Code.


The debate over the fire safety codes that Rhode Island adopted after the fire at The Station nightclub continued in April at the second hearing of the 2007-08 House Oversight Commission to Study the Ramifications of the Fire Safety Code

George Calise, deputy fire marshal for Providence, said some fine-tuning of the codes is needed, but he warned against making “radical changes,” which he said “would only serve to confuse the citizenry, confuse the design professionals and confuse the fire code enforcement authorities and developers.”

But business groups and municipal officials, who came out in force again, called for bigger changes.

Jerry Meyer, president of the East Greenwich Chamber of Commerce and spokesman for the Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce Coalition, which represents 13 Chambers, testified on behalf of East Greenwich businesses and nonprofits suffering from costs associated with compliance.

The Greenwich Odeum, the city’s only downtown theater, had its occupancy rating reduced by 25% because it lacked sprinklers. It could no longer make enough money to stay open, Meyer said, and it could not afford the cost of sprinklers.

Meyer also asked, on behalf of the Chamber Coalition, that the commission recognize that school buildings should not be subject to the same rules as nightclubs. East Greenwich has had to redirect more than $1 million to fire alarm upgrades in schools, some for a school that will be demolished in the next few years, he said.

Cumberland Mayor Daniel McKee testified that the cost of fire code work for schools in his town is about $8 million, although much of that is not due to upgrades, because the town also is building a new high school.

After listening to the Chambers’ and town officials’ testimony, Thomas Coffey, executive director of the R.I. Fire Safety Code Board of Appeal and Review, said: “It appears that the major issues we have here are the costs of the sprinkler coverage and the fire alarm coverage. I don’t think there’s any business that’s come before us and said,‘We have a problem putting up exit signs.'"

He suggested that the commission and state fire authorities work together to focus on those two issues, which “seem to be a thread of all the arguments,” he said.

To read Providence Business News’ article on the hearing in its entirety, click here

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