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Maryland Fire Marshal Proposes Retrofits

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Maryland State Fire Marshal Brian Geraci is proposing revisions to the State Fire Code that would require owners of multifamily residential facilities to retrofit their properties with approved fire suppression systems.  Although the proposal is currently in draft form, Fire Marshal Geraci suggests that the new standards be adopted effective January 1, 2019, with property owners given 12 years from that date to comply.

Staff from AOBA and MMHA were briefed last week by Fire Marshal Geraci on his proposal, which would offer a menu of fire suppression choices for high-rise, mid-rise and garden multifamily properties.  Among the types of fire suppression alternatives included were installation of sprinklers in some or parts of buildings, hood fire suppression systems for stoves, and heat limiting cooking elements for electric stoves.  He would also like to see installation of firefighter air replenishment systems in the stairwells of all residential buildings of five stories or more.

This proposal obviously raises many questions and issues for AOBA members.  Changes to the State Fire Code must be adopted by regulation, which will take several months once formally proposed.  Furthermore, State law provides that changes to the State Fire Code do not apply to existing properties unless the State Fire Commission determines that a hazard is so harmful to public safety that it requires adoption of the standard.  The State Fire Commission has not yet made that finding.  Fire Marshal Geraci would like the proposal to apply to condominiums, yet there does not appear to be a way to enforce the measure for individual homeowners.  Most importantly, there have been no reliable cost estimates developed for a proposal that would likely cost tens of millions of dollars.

            Member Action:  State Fire Marshal Geraci will present his proposal at a joint legislative meeting of AOBA and MMHA on Nov. 13 at 10:00 at the Hotel at Arundel Preserve.  Contact AOBA VP Ron Wineholt at rwineholt@aoba-metro.org for details.