§ 23-28.6-24. Places of worship.
(a) The Fire Safety Code Board of Appeal and Review shall establish and maintain a subcategory of assembly occupancies for places of worship and shall, consistent with the provisions of this section, specify code requirements applicable to the subcategory. Every place of worship as defined in § 23-28.1-5 shall comply with the requirements for places of worship by the Fire Safety Code Board of Appeal and Review and administered by the state fire marshal. In establishing and maintaining this subcategory, the board shall give due consideration to the historic level of use as well as to occupant load and shall provide for separate calculation of occupant loads for sanctuaries and gathering halls and for distinct requirements for the different areas of the place of worship.
(b) Newly constructed places of worship shall comply with the applicable requirements for new occupancies.
(c) Existing places of worship shall comply with requirements established by the Fire Safety Code Board of Appeal and Review, pursuant to this subsection.
(1) The Fire Safety Code Board of Appeal and Review shall adopt reasonable requirements for fire safety in existing places of worship by July 1, 2007, which standards shall allow for the continued occupancy and use of the place of worship without undue hardship, with due consideration for the historic use and operation of the place of worship, unless such continued use and occupancy would constitute a serious threat to life. Such requirements shall provide that the place of worship shall have:
(i) Adequate egress, including exits, exit signs, and emergency lighting;
(ii) Adequate systems for discovery of fire and smoke and for altering occupants promptly and effectively; and
(iii) Adequate fire extinguishers.
(2) Existing places of worship shall not be subject to requirements for places of assembly to install sprinklers in the sanctuary or in other areas unless the state fire marshal, or official in the office of the state fire marshal designated by the state fire marshal in the capacity of the authority having jurisdiction, shall determine: (i) that in the absence of sprinklers, there would be a serious threat to life as a result of conditions specific to those areas in the place of worship; or (ii) that the kitchen of the place of worship is used for cooking food for more than two (2) hours per week as an annual average, in which case a requirement may be imposed for automatic fire suppression system in the kitchen. The code requirements applicable to the place of worship shall be deemed satisfactory purposes of the use of the place of worship or areas thereof by community members and groups and nonprofit organizations; provided, however, that the use of the place of worship or a portion thereof for an occupancy for a commercial purpose or for the regular conduct of an activity or function that requires licensure by the state may be subject to code requirements for that occupancy.
(d) The Fire Safety Code Board of Appeal and Review shall establish a timetable for existing places of worship to comply with the requirements adopted pursuant to subsection (c) of this section, which compliance timetable shall commence not sooner than January 1, 2008 and may extend beyond July 1, 2008.
(e) The Fire Safety Code Board of Appeal and Review and the state fire marshal shall in establishing, interpreting, administering and enforcing code requirements pertaining to this subcategory satisfy reasonable requirements for life safety in a manner that does not cause disproportionate effort or expense and that allows for continued occupancy as places of worship in buildings and structures where worship is a historic use, provided that any condition that represents a serious threat to life is mitigated by application of appropriate safeguards, and in so doing, shall give due consideration in applying the provisions of this paragraph to occupancies that normally are used by gatherings of less than fifty (50) persons.
(P.L. 2006, ch. 311, § 3; P.L. 2006, ch. 506, § 3; P.L. 2012, ch. 415, § 24.)