Code Quote of Convenience

By Jack J. Murphy

Below from “New State Code Lacks Fire Safety Changes Urged after Edgewater (NJ) Blaze,” Bergen Record (NJ) Article (9/19/15)

For months after a five-alarm fire ripped through a massive apartment complex in Edgewater and left a pile of debris in its wake, residents, firefighters and lawmakers called for changes to state regulations that dictate building standards and requirements, in hopes of improving fire safety.

Many provided input to the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs, which happened to be in the midst of updating the state Uniform Construction Code, a process that takes place every three years.

On Monday, the newly revised code will take effect. But absent are the changes that so many had been pushing for after the Avalon at Edgewater fire…

Taming the Fire Environment Rebuttal

Code Quote of Convenience: In the newspaper article New Jersey, DCA Commissioner Charles Richman who said the review process started before the Avalon blaze and that while his department gathered feedback after the fire, it was with the understanding that any changes to the state code could not “exceed” the guidelines of the International Code Council, a non-profit association often recognized as setting the national standards. “While many people commented on changes they wish to see in the code relative to the construction of mid-rise buildings, we have no authority to exceed what the national code calls for,” Richman said.

RELATED: Firefighters Battle Huge Edgewater (NJ) Apartment Complex Fire | Glenn Corbett on Huge Edgewater (NJ) Fire | Jack Murphy Discusses Edgewater (NJ) Fire

If this is the case with the national code guidelines, one has to ask why did the state of New Jersey not apply the ‘convenience’ approach when the national ICC residential sprinkler requirement for one and two family homes was enacted as a code and allow the industry to remove this life safety requirement at the State level.

While the fire service has sufficient incident data on large lightweight pedestal buildings and has not been able to enhance the necessary life safety measures for these structures, the industry within the state is applying their own “limited policy of the present-day public perception” as it continues to build in local Jersey communities with this type of construction.  But in these construction projects the installation of a full NFPA 13 sprinkler system and masonry fire walls beyond the current code requirements are being advocated and installed. These are the life safety measures are that the fire service has been supporting over the years.

One also has to ask the industry if the current national/state building codes on large lightweight pedestal for the height and area section is compliant, why was the Edgewater “Survival” building retrofitted with an NFPA 13 sprinkler system within the attic space? IT IS NOT A CODE REQUIREMENT, or is it more fittingly a mental suitability for those still inhabiting this structure?

Jack J. MurphyJack J. Murphy, MA, is a fire marshal (ret.)/fmr. deputy chief and has served as a deputy fire coordinator for the N.J. Div. of Fire Safety (Bergen Region). He is the Chairman of the New York City High-Rise Fire Safety Directors Assoc., a member of the NFPA High-Rise Building Safety Advisory and 1620-Pre-Incident Planning Committees. He has published various fire service articles and authored: RICS; Rapid Incident Command System Field Handbooks; the “Pre-Incident Planning” Chapter-29 of the Fire Engineering’s Handbook for Firefighter I & II; and co-authored, “Bridging the Gap: Fire Safety and Green Buildings.”  Jack is a PennWell Fire Group Executive Board member, a Fire Engineering contributing editor, co-hosts Taming the Fire Environment on the Fire Engineering website and he has received the 2012 Fire Engineering ‘Tom Brennan” Lifetime Achievement Award.


  • JACK J. MURPHY , MA, is a retired fire marshal and a former deputy chief. He is the chairman of the New York City High-Rise Fire Safety Directors Association, a member of the NFPA High-Rise Building Safety Advisory, and a member of the 1620 Pre-Incident Planning Committees. He has authored RICS: Rapid Incident Command System Field Handbook , wrote the Preincident Planning chapter of Fire Engineering’s Handbook for Firefighter I and II , and coauthored Bridging the Gap: Fire Safety and Green Buildings . He contributes articles to Fire Engineering . He was the recipient of the 2012 Fire Engineering Tom Brennan Lifetime Achievement Award .

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