Citing the lack of regulations in Rutherford County, members of the Public Safety Committee have decided to begin studying the need for adopting portions of the International Fire Code.
“Having fire codes will enhance providing protection for Rutherford County residents,” said Commissioner Gary Farley (Dist. 7), who served as assistant fire chief for the Murfreesboro Fire Department for more than 15 years before retiring in March 2011.
The codes will also help lower insurance premiums because new commercial and residential developments will have the proper infrastructure that is needed to combat fires, he said.
“Right now, we do not have any fire codes in place for unincorporated areas of Rutherford County,” Farley said. “This is an effort to save lives and property.”
The regulations are a part of standards set by the International Code Council, a nonprofit that has long been the go-to organization for government bodies in the process of developing standards for workplace, school and residential safety guidelines.
The organization comprises members who have experience in public safety, as well as the private sector.
If approved by the Rutherford County Commission, new developments and residential subdivisions would be required to have adequate water flow and pressure.
“Developers would be required to install big enough lines that could provide enough water pressure for fire hydrants,” Farley said. “We have got to fix this situation so that we can provide better infrastructure in the future for businesses and residential neighborhoods.”
The idea to study fire code regulations comes only a few months after the Tennessee General Assembly passed a bill, co-sponsored by Republican Sen. Jim Tracy, of Shelbyville, that prohibits how local governments are allowed to pass requirements for residential sprinkler systems in new developments.
Gov. Bill Haslam signed the bill into law before the 107th General Assembly adjourned in April, much to the chagrin of several public safety groups, including the Tennessee Fire Service Coalition.
Specifically, the law states governing bodies may only adopt mandatory sprinkler requirements for one-family and two-family homes by ordinance or resolution upon a two-thirds vote after at least two readings at two separate meetings.
“We worked really hard last year to make it harder to require residential sprinklers,” said Mitzi Spann, chairwoman of Government Affairs for the Home Builders Association of Tennessee Inc. “Public notice must now be given to residents before a mandate could be considered.”
Because developers are already willing to put a sprinkler system in a home voluntarily, Spann said a local mandate is unnecessary.
“We do a lot to keep fire safety a priority,” she said. “So, more regulations would only drive up the cost of building homes more.”
However, the law does not place limits on regulating water flow and pressure – a fact Farley emphasized Friday during an interview.
“This is more of a fire hydrant issue,” Farley said, noting officials with the Rutherford County Fire Rescue have expressed concern over the accessibility of fire hydrants in some unincorporated areas.
“The provisions of the International Fire Code we are considering do not require residential sprinkler systems – nothing like that is on the table,” he said. “But, it could be used as an equivalency if the flow is not sufficient to provide enough water to fight fires in a subdivision.”