Commissioner Doria Issues Statement on Proposed High Rise Sprinkler Requirements

TRENTON, N.J. – New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA) Commissioner Joseph Doria issued the following statement regarding proposed high rise sprinkler requirements:

“Currently there is a proposal before the DCA that would require all existing high rise commercial and residential buildings to be retrofitted with fire suppression systems within four years.  The time period for which this regulation may be enacted by the Department expires on Wednesday, September 17, 2008.  After extremely careful review and consideration, I have decided not to go forward with adoption of the proposed rule at this time.  

“I understand and appreciate the desire of the proponents of this rule to increase high rise safety, both for the occupants of these buildings and for firefighters.   The potential financial impact, however, of the proposed regulation on our state’s hard working families and senior citizens is one they simply cannot endure at this time.  The DCA received more than 1,000 letters from the public on this issue, most expressing concern over the potential increases in rent that might result from installing fire sprinklers in New Jersey’s high rise apartment buildings.  I listened to and understood their concerns wholeheartedly when making this decision and appreciate their taking part in the process.

“The issue, however, of high rise buildings with fire suppression systems still requires a solution.  Governor Corzine has made clear that we need to protect our New Jersey residents and fire service personnel from the dangers of fires in such buildings.  That is why I promise to work with members of the State’s Fire Safety Commission on all options available to enhance high rise safety.  Additional measures have already been discussed, including: mandatory evacuation plans and training for the occupants of high rise buildings, phasing the requirement for installing fire sprinkler systems in high rise commercial buildings to coincide with the terms of leases in those buildings, developing a “fire safety” matrix in order to evaluate the level of fire safety in individual buildings, allowing longer time periods to comply or requiring that fire sprinkler systems be installed in the common areas of high rise residential buildings and that one sprinkler head be installed within each dwelling unit, with the piping of these systems sized so that it could serve the entire building eventually. 

“We will review any proposed initiatives for their potential benefits as well as their economic impact and we will work in cooperation with high rise building owners across the State to improve the safety of these buildings.  

“November marks the 25th anniversary of passage of the Uniform Fire Safety Act and creation of the Fire Safety Commission.  Over the course of the last 25 years, New Jersey has put a comprehensive set of statewide fire prevention and fire safety retrofit requirements in place.  As a result of these initiatives, fire losses in the State have been dramatically reduced.  While we can be proud of our accomplishments, we certainly will not rest on the laurels of past achievement.  We are committed moving forward to enhance life safety and to minimize property loss.  We will work toward finding a solution to this problem that will provide safety to our children, family and loved ones, while at the same time not providing an undue economic hardship.”