Dothan Fire Code Changes

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The city of Dothan has recently adopted the 2006 International Fire Code, which could bring about several changes to some establishments. But fire officials say not every structure will be affected.

There are two parts to this newly adopted code, which will primarily affect businesses. The first will affect existing buildings, but those noticing the most change will be new construction.

The fire code change most are talking about has to do with sprinklers.

Local fire officials say it is the most misunderstood topic, creating a ripple of concern in the business community.

Chris Etheredge, with the Dothan Fire Department says, "The 2006 International Fire Code is not forcing every business in town to sprinklers. It's not forcing every new construction to sprinklers. Of course, we would love that for safety reasons and property protection, but it's based on your occupancy type and what you'll be doing."

According to the code, an existing establishment would not have to install a sprinkler system.

The only structures that would be required to comply would be those that are newly built for occupancy of more than 100 people or an existing building that is redesigned for a different type of business or use.

While the adopted building code may create an extra step for some builders, there are others who are noticing quite a benefit in the long run.

"For the protection you get of a small investment, I'm told by the builders in town that are already complying with the code, that they're seeing a 40-50% savings in insurance by installing a sprinkler system. So after three, four, five years, the sprinkler system has paid for itself," says Etheredge.

It's less than $3-dollars per square foot to add into new construction, but it could be as much as $4.50 per square foot to retro-fit an existing structure.

Codes do exist that require even new residential buildings to be installed with sprinklers but that's not yet the case in Dothan.

The fire marshal’s office is just trying to update these codes one step at a time.

The state's version of the 2006 International Fire Code will go into effect Friday. It will take about another two weeks for the city's adopted code to be implemented.

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