Today BAM’s legal team and expert witnesses present our case to Administrative Law Judge Eric Lipman to keep mandatory sprinkler systems out of the residential building code. We will be live tweeting and live blogging throughout the hearing today. Check back for updates.
8:37AM The troops are assembling. The judge said he he plans to start right at 9:00AM. Several members and association staff have come to support. Rochester, Fargo-Moorhead, Brainerd and the Twin Cities are all here.
9:00AM Judge Lipman has started the hearing stating today is about record building and fact finding. Judge Lipman said the hearing will be focused on three key issues: 1) does the government have legal authority to adopt these rules, 2) whether the department fulfilled all administrative procedures, and 3) the range of choices an agency is authorized to make and whether they were needed and reasonable.
9:25AM Department of Labor and Industry’s general counsel Jeff Lebowski is introducing their case and exhibits A through J.
9:42AM Standing recess called by the Judge.
9:53AM Roger Axel is testifying on behalf of BAM stating he is for public safety as a building official and introduced how fire sprinklers were put in the national code.
9:59AM Steve Orlowski is now testifying discussing discrepancies and what’s been happening in the rest of the United States with regard to the sprinkler issue. Orlowski is wrapping up his testimony and states in all his research he cannot find a reason for the 4,500 square foot threshold the department included in their draft code.
10:25AM Karen Linner is beginning her testimony. She will address how this will affect the state of Minnesota. No deaths in homes built after smoke alarms started being required in 2003 – hardwired, battery backed-up, and interconnected. No fire fighter deaths in residential fires since data has been collected. Gives history of code proposals and proposed trade offs.
Linner covers whether Minnesotans want sprinklers to be required. A U of M survey determined 87% of Minnesotans want sprinklers to remain their choice.
11:22AM Joe Springer testifies on behalf of BAM and asks several questions of the Department about how they determined there was a need and reasonableness for mandatory fire sprinklers in homes 4,500 square feet and larger.
11:40AM State Fire Marshal Dahm testifies fire marshals support the model national code. (Despite the fact that 41 states have rejected the national code, and only one state has accepted it – California.) Marshal Dahm says sprinklers protect people, property, possessions, and pets.
11:50AM Judge Lipman called a recess until 12:20 on the dot.
12:20PM And we’re back. Jeff Hudson of NFPA, a residential fire sprinkler advocate, is testifying now. Admits fire death rate went down once smoke alarms were required in homes.
12:42PM Ronald Farr employee of Underwriters Laboratory now testifying. UL “certifies, validates, tests, inspects, audits, and advises and trains” for their clients. Farr says they’ve been doing research for sprinkler advocates.
1:04PM Clay Dietrich testifying for BAM now. Retired assistant fire chief from Moorhead, MN. Served for 27 years. Also been a builder for 39 years. Discusses border city issues, areas without municipal water supply, and cost. “The real problem is older homes without smoke alarms. That’s where deaths are happening. The problem isn’t with new housing.”
1:40PM The judge called a 15 minute break.
1:55PM And we’re back. Sean Flahrety is testifying on behalf of the national fire sprinkler association.
2:16PM Chris Contreras from Ryland Homes testifies regarding size and percentage of homes affected (30%) as well as increased cost. $10K additional cost may only be $53 extra per month in a mortgage but over the course of the life of that mortgage it ends up being $19K and that can be hard for a homeowner and at times ends up being the tipping point.
2:24PM Mark Brunner from the Manufactured and Modular Homes Association testifies.
2:35PM The fire chiefs are up and say smoke alarms are not enough protection.
2:55PM Buddy Dewar testifying now as head of the National Fire Protection Agency. Claims fire sprinklers should be mandated to put out non-fatal fires and protect property. Also claims the reason 41 states have rejected mandatory residential sprinkler systems is because of the “strength of the building industry.”
3:20PM All scheduled witnesses have been heard. Judge recesses until 3:35PM. Plan is to adjourn for the day by 5:00PM.
3:35PM No further witnesses came forward and judge adjourned the hearing at 3:45PM. Please submit and comments by January 2nd at 4:30PM. The rebuttal period will then last 5 business days and close at 4:30PM on January 9.