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Fire safety plan will require smoke detectors

"After a lengthy planning process, new fire safety regulations are in the works for newly constructed or significantly remodeled multi-unit residential buildings.A local Fire Safety Committee, comprised of representatives of real estate, building owners and managers, the Kitsap County Housing Authority, tenants and fire personnel, will submit a finalized version of a long-term fire safety plan to the Port Orchard City Council Dec. 26.It's been about two years in the works, from beginning to end. It's taken a lot of time because we involved everybody affected by the ordinance, or at least representatives of everybody affected by the ordinance, said Fire District 7 assistant chief Wayne Senter.Because we went through the democratic process, it took a lot of time, but the result was worth it. It's something everybody's come to consensus on. It's a good ordinance, he said.The plan is so good, in fact, it will be used as a model for fire safety plan development at the national fire academy and the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Project Impact group recognized it as the best regional safety program for a community, Senter said. The fire safety plan will require new or remodeled multi-family residential units of three or more floors and four or more dwelling units to meet standards for smoke detectors, sprinkler systems, floor plans, evacuation plans, fire alarms and inspections.Compliance deadlines vary depending on how complicated it will be for building owners to implement the new standards. Under the plan, smoke detectors must be installed in the sleeping areas of every unit by the six-month deadline - around June or July 2001, Senter said.Floor plans must be submitted to Fire District 7 for pre-fire planning a year after the ordinance passes. Most of these buildings we already have drawings of, Senter said. We do this for firefighter safety.Building owners will be required to work with the fire district to develop emergency evacuation plans, which must be posted in common areas of the buildings by the one-year deadline.For its part of the bargain, Fire District 7 developed and conducted classroom-style fire safety training programs for building owners and tenants. They held one class in Bremerton and another at the Givens Community Center in Port Orchard.The deal was that everybody has a piece in this. The fire district assumed the cost of the training. Also, we'll send a form letter to notify owners of a significant event on their property, Senter said. Their part is to install smoke detectors at their expense and fire alarms at their expense.Non-monitored fire alarm systems must be installed in all Level Two buildings - three or more floors and four to 16 units - and a monitored fire alarm system in all Level Three buildings - three or more floors and 17 or more units - by Jan. 1, 2004.Outfitting Level One, Two and Three buildings with smoke detectors is expected to cost about $30,390. Installing monitored fire alarms in Level Two buildings would cost about $163,100 and monitored fire alarm systems in Level Three buildings would cost about $122,850.Despite the cost, Senter said the committee voted unanimously on the ordinance. I've been in fire service 22 years. I've never seen a process that started off so contentious end with such an excellent product. I believe in 10 years, we'll be able to look back an say we saved lives, he said.Multi-family residential buildings are split into three types under the plan. Level One buildings are those with three or more floors and four or more dwelling units. According to Fire District 7, there are 358 Level One buildings in Port Orchard.Level Two buildings are three or more floors high and less than 17 dwelling units. There are 466 Level Two units in Port Orchard.The requirements for Level Three buildings - three or more floors and more than 17 dwelling units - will be more stringent with the introduction of a fire safety matrix. All buildings must be inspected annually by the fire chief or a designee, but Level Three buildings will be required to meet an additional, 80-point scoring guide that awards points for things like attic draft stops, fire alarm system, sprinklers, emergency vehicle access and proximity of hydrants.Level Three buildings that score less than 80 points on the score card can be deemed a public health and safety hazard by the fire authority, allowing the chief to have the building repaired, rehabilitated, demolished or removed.There are about 189 Level Three units in Port Orchard. "

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