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State Regulators Loosen Restaurant Sprinkler Rule

Posted March 13, 2007

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— The state Building Code Council voted Tuesday to lower the standard for requiring sprinkler systems in dining facilities.

A regulation that went into effect in January required dining facilities that hold at least 100 people to have sprinklers. But the Building Code Council voted to revert to an older standard of requiring sprinklers in facilities seating 300 or more people.

Council member John Hitch, an architect, proposed lowering the accepted national standard, because it was too costly for smaller restaurateurs to meet.

The standard will remain at 100 people or more for nightclubs.

State Fire Marshal Jim Long was upset by the vote. Officials nationwide had worked to tighten building codes after a 2003 nightclub fire in Rhode Island killed 98 people.

When members of the state Building Code Council were asked to excuse themselves from voting because of a possible conflict of interest, no one abstained.

15 Comments

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  • happy Mar 14, 2007

    You know...we offer so many tax incentives to new companies wanting to move into the state. Why couldn't we do the same for the small business owner to retrofit their restaurant? Tax incentive, low interest loan...something that makes the financial burden easier.

    And fyi...100 person capacity is NOT a very small restaurant. I'm not even sure it falls under small business.

  • Munchie Mar 14, 2007

    Building code council needs to reconvene! I like have sprinkler systems in restaurants, clubs etc. Mike u said it...I'd rather be wet than burned alive!

  • MikeInApex Mar 14, 2007

    I wonder why there is a seperate category for 'restaurants'. Shouldn't sprinkler systems apply to all buildings?

    Here's what happens when our government makes dumb decisions about structures that should be 'required' to have a sprinkler system (regardless of age): http://www.wral.com/news/state/story/1232662/

    Don't know about you, but I'd rather have a wet Grandma than a dead one.

  • TechRescue Mar 14, 2007

    A fire can start anywhere - it doesn't have to be an "open flame". It can be a cigarette, an electrical problem, or human intervention. Flame-retardent fabrics lose their resistance over time, especially in areas where cigarette smoke is present.

    Take the human cost out of the picture - a single sprinker head can save a business or home, since most fires start small. Recently, some residents of North Raleigh, living in subdivisons without hydrants, learned the hard way just how valuable a sprinkler system could have been. By the time the fires in their homes were seen and reported, they were too big to be put out before the home was a total loss.

    So thanks, NC government, for once again taking the low road. In the proud tradition of NC politics, I wonder whose pockets got lined to make this happen? Is the bathroom video out yet?

  • arsonfnder Mar 13, 2007

    As a Fire Inspector with 17 years experience it never ceases to amaze me the ignorance in which our governing bodies use to make decisions that can have a signifigant impact on the life or death of the citizens they are sworn to protect??? I would hope local municipalities adopt as ordinance the 100 person requirement as I will suggest in my town.

  • happy Mar 13, 2007

    jf - you are welcome for the comments. I'm proud to say my fiance is a sprinkler fitter. I'm secure knowing that he is always looking up when we go out to make sure that where we are is protected. And to Durham Dude...yes, we do have a sprinkler system in our apt. Wouldn't have moved to a second floor apt without it. Have the recent fires taught you nothing?

  • fireman1963 Mar 13, 2007

    As the owner and president of a fire sprinkler contracting company, it amazes me that people on this site are talkiing about the money involved in installing sprinklers in a building.

    As a rule of thumb, a sprinkler system can be installed in a commercial building for as little as $1.75 - #2.25 per square foot. Obviously, this is dependent on the configuration of the building as well as other factors. An average McDonald's restaurant having about 5000 sq.ft. would cost somewhere around the $10K-$12K mark. Again this depends on the floor configuration.

    To say that a small restaurant cannot afford a sprinkler system is laughable. They would spend many times more on the HVAC System and the Equipment that would save how many lives?

    How much is the lives and property of the restaurant worth?

    And "happy", thank you for the comments. Not many people realize how important fire sprinkler systems are in saving lives and property.

  • nursevb8 Mar 13, 2007

    Anyone with a restaurant should have sprinklers, and I agree, a small restaurant cannot hold 100 people. Isn't the cost worth the possible loss?

  • superman Mar 13, 2007

    Raleigh is looking at their fire codes and the state has decided to change the code for sprinklers? 100 people in one place is not a small business. If it saves the lives of the patrons and keeps the building and surrounding buildings safe seems to me to be a good investment. Also the insurance rates would be much lower too.

  • DurhamDude Mar 13, 2007

    So, I would assume all you complaining about this have sprinklers in your own homes to protect your own families? If not, why?

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