Lack of supply cited for dropping new rule

(March 1, 2019) Two weeks after announcing new regulations for antifreeze in fire suppression sprinkler systems, the Ocean City Fire Marshal Office rescinded the directive that was based on the findings of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

On Thursday, Feb. 21, Ocean City Fire Marshal David Hartley released a statement regarding the Fire Marshal’s decision.


Buildings will not have to drain their current antifreeze solutions as originally determined two weeks ago due to a volume error on the company's part.

“After our initial correspondence was sent in conjunction with information from the Maryland State Fire Marshal’s Office, it has been determined the only currently available listed antifreeze solution may not be ‘listed’ for use in many of the sprinkler systems throughout town, particularly regarding volume limitations, as the current product is limited to 40 gallons within an NFPA 13 sprinkler system,” Hartley said in the press release.

“Based on this information, the Jan. 31, 2019 directive from this office is rescinded,” he continued. “As has been the case, this office will continue to permit the use of a factory pre-mixed antifreeze solution in new and existing fire sprinkler systems, installed and maintained in accordance with all other applicable installation and maintenance standards.”

The directive had been created as a result of growing concerns for fire hazards and effectiveness of other anti-freeze during extreme winter weather.

The NFPA code outlines, among other things, the standards for sprinkler systems in one- and two-family dwellings and manufactured homes, and the standard for the inspection, testing, and maintenance of water-based fire protection systems.

According to the NFPA, current antifreeze solutions do not comply with these regulations, which is why a new solution created by only one company was being recommended.

This particular solution, created by Simplex Dyco, costs four times more than other solutions. Other solutions typically cost around $14 a gallon, while the newer solution costs nearly $50 a gallon, which could have become exceptionally costly for townhouses, condominiums and hotels in the resort.

However, it was later determined by Simplex Dyco that the solution was not capable of being used in a quantity exceeding 40 gallons.

“The new solution enlisted by Underwriter Laboratories is only listed up to 40 gallons in some of our commercial systems, and lot of the existing buildings in town far exceeds 40 gallons,” Ocean City Deputy Fire Marshal Joe Sexauer said. “In essence, what we would be requiring someone to put in, would not be [sufficient]. The new solution itself isn’t suitable for some of the existing systems in town.”

The Ocean City Fire Marshal’s Office then rescinded the directive, and will continue to allow pre-mixed antifreeze solutions in new and current buildings. Solutions are still not allowed to be mixed on site. 

“For the last few years, the fire marshal has really gotten the sprinkler companies involved in a lot of the processes and they probably feel now more confident than ever that the contractors who work in town are going to do the right thing, said Igor Conev, vice president of Mann Properties.

“Over the last few years, the fire marshals have been a lot more open and having meetings with all of the contractors before they make any decisions. I’m very happy about that, because input from people out in the field is very important.”

The Fire Marshal’s Office encourages any further questions or concerns about sprinkler systems to be directed to its office.

“Each building is different,” Sexauer said. “Anybody who has any questions if they have concerns can certainly reach out to us about any questions they might have about their particular sprinkler system.”

To contact the Fire Marshal’s office, call 410-289-8780.

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