October 31, 2014
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Revised fire codes designed to lift burden on businesses

The Rhode Island Senate has passed legislation that will update the state fire code and increase flexibility and options for businesses that must comply with it.

“This measure,” said Sen. William A. Walaska (D-Dist. 30, Warwick), who introduced the bill, 2012-S 2564Aaa, “is designed to reduce the burdens placed on small businesses by the existing code while ensuring that public safety is still paramount.”

The legislation, which now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration, is part of the Senate’s “Making it Easy to do Business in Rhode Island” continuing initiatives, specifically by addressing the concerns of businesses that seek less costly options to comply with the state fire code.

The current fire code was instituted in the aftermath of the tragic Station fire in 2003. In the ensuing nine years, said Senator Walaska, “there have been advances in the technology associated with this field. The bill we just passed acknowledges that today – as a result of those advances – there are different, easier, less-costly ways for businesses to comply with the law without compromising safety.”

The legislation updates the fire code and requests that the Fire Safety Code Board examine added regulatory flexibility for small businesses, including increasing square footage before triggering some of the more expensive code requirements such as sprinklers and fire alarm systems, and to leave in place the exemption provisions for existing apartment buildings, places of worship, funeral homes, marinas and the marine trade industry, restaurants and non-residential barns, as appropriate.

The legislation will allow for alternative and less costly means of compliance, including less expensive wiring methods, the use of third party alarm systems and an increased focus on fire separation within properties, while still ensuring a safe environment.

“As a small business owner, I know how important having options can be,” said Senator Walaska. “I feel this bill strikes a proper and comfortable balance between public safety and flexibility for businesses. The safety of the public has been and continues to be our primary concern, but we do not wish the existing code to continue to be a burden to those businesses that must abide by it. Businesses have been asking for relief for years and this bill provides it.”

The various changes and revisions included in the legislation passed today will take effect no later than Jan. 1, 2013.

A companion House bill, 2012-H 7959, has been introduced by Rep. Frank G. Ferri (D-Dist. 22, Warwick) and is currently before the House Committee on Municipal Government.


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