Mass sprinkler law compliance low

Thursday, November 29, 2007

BOSTON--The Nov. 15 deadline for compliance with the Massachusetts Fire Safety Act has passed and according to a study done by the Boston Globe, compliance appears to be low in this city. However, fire industry officials and others point out that the legislation is a step in the right direction.
The Globe study showed that 283 Boston establishments originally fell under the August 2004 law, which requires any nightclub or bar with a capacity of 100 people to install automatic sprinklers. According to the Globe, 22 installed sprinklers by the deadline, 109 earned waivers by "finding ways around the requirement" and 85 others waited until the last minute to obtain 30- to 60-day extensions. The law was passed after similar legislation was enacted in Rhode Island following the 2003 Station Nightclub fire, which killed 100 people.
"It's progress," said Dominick Kasmauskas, Northeast regional manager for the National Fire Sprinkler Association. The bottom line for sprinkler advocates, Kasmauskas pointed out, is that this law means many more places "are sprinklered than would have been otherwise." He said it would be important for officials to "follow up on the contracts" for the 85 establishments that got extensions to ensure that they do install the sprinkler systems.
Sprinkler legislation is a hard sell, said Massachusetts State Rep. Ruth Balser (D-Newton), who has sponsored legislation for several sessions that would require sprinklers to be installed in commercial establishments larger than 7,500 square feet. "We need more voices demanding the requirement of life-safety equipment in these buildings," she said. She noted that there had been some call for a rollback of the current sprinkler legislation, "but that's not taking off. The [Massachusetts] Legislature won't back off the current legislation."