Mobile Home Sprinklers OK’d For Ocean City

OCEAN CITY – The town’s building codes were tweaked this week now that sprinkler system requirements will include mobile homes.

In December, the Mayor and City Council approved the adoption of the 2009 International Building Code and the International Energy Conservation Code, which replaced the 2006 building codes that the town previously had in place.

A portion of the new code is the requirement to sprinkle newly built single-family homes. This requirement does not apply to existing homes, except in cases of substantial alternation. Ocean City had already required single-family homes and duplexes of three or more stories, as well as town houses, to be sprinkled.

During the council’s discussion over the adopting the new building codes, it was pointed out that mobile homes could not be included in the policy regarding sprinkler systems.

This is because construction standards for mobile homes are regulated by the federal government through the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). It was City Engineer Terry McGean’s understanding at the time that under federal law HUD standards pre-empt local standards.

During the November meeting, Council President Jim Hall was disappointed in the fact that Ocean City could not include mobile homes in the newly adopted sprinkler requirement.

“It seems like to me that when you see the deaths, a lot of them are in mobile homes,” he said.

Discussions with HUD homes followed after the council approved the 2009 building codes.  

“HUD has told us that because they have no regulations for sprinklers that there is nothing to pre-empt and therefore the local requirement to sprinkle single-family homes does apply,” McGean explained during this week’s Mayor and City Council meeting.

The requirement to sprinkle single family homes became effective on Jan. 1. McGean said the change to include mobile homes in the code was postponed until the council approved the measure.

With the council’s approval, the requirement to sprinkle mobile homes will begin March 1, 2011.

The requirement will not include those who have already applied for a permit.

“I will point out that the last fire death that we had was in a mobile home,” McGean said.

The council voted 5-1 to approve the recommendation to include mobile homes, or HUD homes, in the sprinkler system requirement of the building codes.