Government Watch

Monday, October 1, 2007

Rhode Island alarm co. owner/state rep foresees relaxing of fire codes
It's not a done deal yet, but government officials, including Rep. Joseph Trillo (R-Warwick), expect fire codes in Rhode Island to be relaxed by the end of the calendar year.
Rhode Island is the site of the tragic Station nightclub fire, which in 2003 killed 100 people and propelled the Legislature here to quickly enact legislation that strengthened fire codes. Many businesses subsequently have complained that they do not have enough time or money to address changes required by the new codes.
This year, the Rhode Island House of Representatives passed a bill that would relax the fire codes. Among the proposals in the bill: tax credits for businesses who retrofit fire systems; the extension of some deadlines; proposed options for alternative sprinkler and alarm systems, including some sprinkler systems that could be installed by plumbers; some exemptions from fire requirements for churches and other small performance venues if these structures double exit capacity. The bill was supported by Gov. Carcieri, but the Senate did not take up the bill.
However, certain provisions of the bill (but not tax credits) may become state policy, without having a bill passed in the Legislature.
Trillo noted that when the stricter fire regulations were passed after the [Station] nightclub fire, the Legislature granted the overseeing governmental body--in this case, the state's Fire Code Board of Appeals--the power to make "adjustments, modifications and changes as they see fit," Trillo explained.
"With the help of the Governor's office, we hope to enact some changes through regulations, instead of through law," he explained.
Trillo has some personal experience with fire codes, having been in the alarm industry for 30 years. Trillo owns a small alarm company and central station called Triple A Custom Alarms in Warwick. His heavily residential-focused company does about 90 percent security and 10 percent fire work.
The Fire Code Board of Appeals is currently conducting hearings, Trillo said.
"I expect this will happen ... and the time frame is around the end of December," he said. Although there is steep opposition from unions, relaxing the codes "has had a lot of testimony [in favor] and has a lot of good support," he said.