Bill would require sprinklers in some new N.J. homes

Posted: January 08, 2014

TRENTON - A state Senate panel advanced a bill Monday that would require some new houses built in New Jersey to be equipped with an automatic sprinkler system.

Supporters of the legislation say sprinklers could save lives at a relatively low price, about 1 percent of the total cost of building the home. The bill requires installation in new single- and two-family homes.

More than half of the 85 civilian casualties due to fires in 2012 occurred in single- and two-family homes, according to data from the state Division of Fire Safety. Eighty percent of the more than 14,000 fires reported in 2012 occurred in residential structures.

Opponents of the legislation, including the New Jersey Builders Association, said at a budget committee hearing Monday that the state should focus its energy on ensuring that smoke detectors are installed in each home.

As many as 25 percent of houses do not have working smoke detectors, association spokesman Jeff Kolakowski testified. He also said the cost of installing a system could run much higher than supporters suggested.

State Sen. Brian Stack (D., Hudson) said cost was a secondary concern. "Whatever the cost is, it's worth it when it comes down to somebody's life," he said.

The bill heads to the full Senate.

In other legislative action, the budget committee advanced a bill that would require municipal police departments to install video recording systems in vehicles used primarily for traffic stops. State patrol cars already are equipped with cameras.

In the Assembly, the bill was sponsored by Paul Moriarty (D., Gloucester), who was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving in July 2012. The charges were dismissed after he obtained video footage from a patrol car camera that showed him driving normally and appearing to pass sobriety tests easily.

Also Monday, the Assembly passed legislation that would establish the parameters within which police and fire departments could use unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones.

Law enforcement agencies would be authorized to use drones for search-and-rescue operations such as finding missing persons. Police departments would have to obtain a warrant to use drones in most circumstances.

Drones could be used to monitor fires or natural disasters. The bill heads to the Senate for consideration of new amendments.

856-779-3846 @AndrewSeidman

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