Building Codes have existed since the earliest recordings of history. The intent of a code is to insure public safety standards, health and welfare which are affected by building construction, structural integrity, adequate means of egress, sanitary facilities, light ventilation and heat, and protection from fire hazards.
Sometimes the Code Official is perceived as adversarial even though we may be protecting the people and property from harming themselves. How often have we heard of a fire that took a life and destroyed a building because the owner removed a smoke detector battery while cooking and forgot to replace it? How many times have we learned of a loss of life when a fire destroyed the only escape route from an apartment? Perhaps you will recall the stories of the deck collapse with ten or more people injured from the fall.
It is very clear that all landowners have protected property rights. However, an owner very often is confused or aggravated with what they perceive as an infringement of those rights by the Building official. Understanding the principles of “Police Powers” the City, regulated by the federal and state government, has a defined responsibility to protect the quality of life of each resident and occupant.
Once an ordinance or code is adopted the City has an obligation to require each person to abide by the regulation. Code enforcement also means that reviewing the existing regulations for out of date wording, indifferences to case law and changes by the State legislature which apply to regulations.
As an example the State Legislature has adopted rules to require specific procedures applied to abandoned property when a threat of conflagration is possible. While reviewing recent litigation and court decisions the Building official is obligated to enforce those decisions to avoid unwarranted civil action of malice.
Permits for electrical repairs or new installations are necessary to insure against fire hazard, conformity of voltage to operate devices and appliances and for protection from serious or deadly injuries.
Plumbing permits are required to insure against hazards to personal health and the environment, while gas permits and inspections ensure protection from explosions and fire.
Regulation of Construction by Inspection Services and the Fire Department
Building codes are adopted in part to eliminate the threat of fire and to protect occupants in all new or renovated buildings.
Code officials and Fire officials often discuss the internal policies linking fire and building officials. Issues that are most often debated are fire suppression, fire alarms and smoke/heat detectors.
Each community approaches the separation between the building official’s code and fire prevention regulations by a delicate compromise of authorities. In Melrose, for the past ten years, a dedicated and resilient working relationship between the Fire Chief and Building Commissioner has strengthened the community’s commitment to life safety.
On occasion different opinions are negotiated to a practical end by assenting to codes and referring to opinions based on case law as a sound and equitable mediation. All decisions are made based on the primary concern of safety to the community and each emergency response person’s import at the top of every issue.
During the application process three sets of plans are submitted to the building department.
- First, a set is to be marked and returned to the applicant with approvals and comments.
- Second, a set is sent to the fire department for their review.
- Third, a complete set with approvals and signatures is kept on file.
A plan review will include items such as hazardous use index, fire rating of walls and fabrics, fire suppression, sprinkler head type and location, fire alarm notification, and smoke and heat detector placements.
All of these building elements are regulated by the State Building Code which is the “Authority Having Jurisdiction”. When installing these fixtures the code is specific with regards to design, performance and location. However, as an example, when designing and installing sprinkler systems the Head of the Fire Department would approve the type and systems capacity.
Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detector Certificates
In accordance with Massachusetts General Law, chapter 148 section 26F, the Fire Department issues smoke and carbon monoxide certificates upon the sale or transfer of your home.
Appointments for an inspection should be scheduled as soon as a purchase and sales agreement is signed. There are times throughout the year when scheduling inspections may take a month before an appointment can be made so it is important to schedule the inspection in a timely manner by calling the Fire Department at 781-797-4405.
Click here for a guideline pertaining to one- and two-family homes, which includes a significant change effective April 5, 2010, in the Massachusetts’ smoke detector requirements for all residents subject to MGL c. 148, s. 26F upon sale or transfer.
Please note: All three-to five- family residential homes are required to be equipped with hardwired smoke detectors throughout the building.