Cary News

Morrisville adds fine for altering sprinklers

Several changes to the town’s fire code affect businesses, educational institutions and nonprofit groups.

One of the most significant revisions to the code is a fine for contractors who alter fire alarms, sprinkler systems or other fire suppression devices without prior approval from the fire department.

No final approval has been given on the fine amount. The proposed penalty is $200 and is expected to appear before the council on June 26, according to the town.

Other municipalities already issue fines to violators.

Raleigh charges $250 for work without a permit and Wake Forest charges $60 for first offense and $120 for second offense. Wake Forest also issues a stop work order.

Zebulon’s fines penalize contractors retroactively. Zebulon charges $50 a day from the date of the unapproved installation until the unauthorized alteration is discovered.

Cary and Knightdale issue separate fire alarm and sprinkler system permits, but do not issue fines for violations.

The code revisions, approved in March, also mean a more stringent inspection schedule for all educational institutions. They will now be inspected once a year instead of every two years.

The change was made to require inspections of unlicensed day care centers, which were not being inspected. State law requires licensed sites to be inspected once a year.

“Our goal was to include unlicensed day cares in our annual inspection schedule,” said Shandy Padgett, Morrisville Acting Fire Marshall. “We have found that as more time is had between fire inspections, there is an increased likelihood of fire code violations.”

In a 24-month inspection schedule, it was difficult for the department to enforce changes to the state law.

“What is a requirement for one facility may not be required at another facility based upon when the facility went through the plan review and permit process,” Padgett said.

For example, in 2007 day cares did not have to have a manual fire alarm system unless they had more than 50 occupants. In 2011, state fire codes changed requiring all day cares to have a manual fire alarm system regardless of occupancy loads, Padgett said.

“The code would not allow us to retroactively require new installation of equipment and devices,” she said.

Nonprofit organizations will benefit under the new code approved in March. All Morrisville 501(c) 3 organizations will be exempt from initial inspection fees but are not exempt from re-inspection or permit fees.

For more information about the fire code visit www.townofmorrisville.org.

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