Increasing Building Safety with Smoke Control Systems: House bill 2701 Amendments

What is House bill 2701?

House Bill 2701, now enacted in Washington State as law, was created to raise awareness about the dangers to occupants of buildings with poorly maintained smoke control systems including fire/smoke dampers. The bill attempted to address the industry concerns with lack of qualified contractor requirements and lack of clear uniformity to guide for enforcement. It contains difficult to enforce and unnecessarily restrictive provisions and requirements that negatively impacts building owners, system designers, engineers, installers, service companies and code enforcement officials.     

What are the ramifications of House Bill 2701?         

  • It established certification requirements that can only be obtained by members of the sheet metal union, even though these systems require a team approach; including architects, engineers, fire alarm, mechanical, elevator, air balancing, fire sprinklers, and others.
  • It provided an immediate deadline (July 1st, 2021) with no ramp up period for building owner compliance that is impossible to achieve given the limitations on qualified labor.
  • It mandated a non-standard and inefficient citation process requiring local jurisdictions to collect fines and pay them forward to a State Fund.
  • It conflicted with already established Fire codes and contractor regulations in WA; such as allowing individuals without a NICET 2 requirement to work on fire alarm systems as a part of smoke control inspections and maintenance.
  • While it passed as a house bill and is an active RCW, it did not follow established process in WA to enact it as a Washington Administrative Code (WAC) causing the enforcement to be disparate and unclear. 

What’s being done about it?

The Washington State Association of Fire Marshals and a broad coalition of stakeholders, representing several unions, community colleges, the National Fire Protection Association, multiple fire agencies, building owners and managers, independent contractors and engineers, and associations for various trades and industries have met throughout 2021 to revise the bill. RCW 19.27.700-740 was redrafted to provide clarity and remove barriers to implementation and enforcement.

         These amendments:

  • Clarify local agencies’ authority to follow existing enforcement and citation processes also contained in Chapter 1 of the International Fire Code.             
  • Create and clarify qualifications of personnel working on smoke control systems as well as dampers to reflect existing State laws, national standards, and the 2018 IFC and IBC.   
  • Clarify the minimum standards to guide how the testing and maintenance is to be performed.
  • Requires the State Building Code Council to review, create and define provisions for:
    • smoke control systems testing in the Washington Building Code and Fire Code,
    • Establishing rules on the role and qualifications of the lead engineer who develops a testing plan during construction; and of the special inspector for these systems.
    • clarifying rules on the role and qualifications of the special inspector for these systems
    • providing an acceptable time frame by which owners of existing buildings need to provide a testing plan as required in the code to guide annual testing and maintenance of these complex systems. 

This is a simple example of poorly constructed policy that now has a broad coalition to improve and ensure the safety our buildings.    

What can I do?

Stand together with  WA State Fire Marshals in support of the proposed amendments to  House Bill 2701 by signing and sharing this petition and help to send a message to our Representatives demanding clear, equitable and enforceable language in the legislation.

Christopher Moye – Guardian Security “In support of Washington State Association of Fire Marshals”    Contact the author of the petition

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