Can You Repeat That? Is Your Condominium in Compliance?
If your condominium is greater than 75 feet tall, then you need to read this article.
It is essential for condominium associations to ensure that their buildings are in compliance with the requirements of the Florida Fire Prevention Code (the “Fire Code”). For the safety of all residents, associations must ensure they stay up to date with the latest and greatest in fire safety provisions. One of these essential safety features is a requirement that systems be built into new and existing buildings to ensure that first responders’ radios will work throughout buildings in an emergency situation. Pursuant to Section 11.10.1 of the Fire Code, “in all new and existing buildings, minimum radio signal strength for fire department communications shall be maintained at a level determined by the AJH [the authority having jurisdiction]. Additionally, Section 11.10.2. provides that where required by the authority having jurisdiction, two-way radio communication enhancement systems must comply with the requirements of the Fire Code.
When originally adopted, the requirements of Sections 11.10.1 and 11.10.2 of the Fire Code applied only to new buildings, so the requirement was not a burden on existing buildings. However, in 2013, the Fire Code was updated as set out above to provide that all new and existing buildings must maintain adequate fire department radio signal strength inside the building. This new requirement applied to all buildings and did not provide a grace period. This posed a significant problem for many high-rise condominiums, as the installation of the necessary equipment involves opening walls and ceilings and can be quite costly to the association. The cost of such installation was a substantial burden to condominiums, not expecting to be required to install same, and therefore never budgeted for the installation.
Recognizing the problem, in 2016 the Florida Legislature adopted section 633.202(18), Florida Statutes, which provided a grace period for high-rise buildings. Existing high-rise buildings were not required to comply with minimum radio strength for fire department communications until January 1, 2022. You may be thinking, “that date is passed”, but do not panic. If your condominium has not yet complied with the requirements, have no fear. The 2021 Florida Legislature amended section 633.202(18), Florida Statutes, to provide another extension for compliance.
In accordance with the newly amended statute, existing high-rise buildings now have until January 1, 2025 to come into compliance with the requirements. However, the association must apply for an appropriate permit for the required installation by January 1, 2024. More specifically, section 633.202(18), Florida Statutes, is amended to provide, in pertinent part, that:
(18) The authority having jurisdiction shall determine the minimum radio signal strength for fire department communications in all new high-rise and existing high-rise buildings. Existing buildings are not required to comply with minimum radio strength for fire department communications and two-way radio system enhancement communications as required by the Florida Fire Prevention Code until January 1, 2025. However, by January 1, 2024, an existing building that is not in compliance with the requirements for minimum radio strength for fire department communications must apply for an appropriate permit for the required installation with the local government agency having jurisdiction and must demonstrate that the building will become compliance by January 1, 2025. Existing apartment buildings are not required to comply until January 1, 2025…
Therefore, all existing high-rise buildings must come into compliance by January 1, 2025. It is important to note that this time extension applies only to high-rise buildings. By way of over simplification, it does not apply to buildings less than 75 feet tall (the measurement can be tricky, so if your building is close to 75 feet check with your association attorney regarding this measurement). In 2018, the Florida Department of Financial Services, Division of State Fire Marshal issued a Declaratory Statement finding that section 633.202(18), Florida Statutes does not apply to the enforcement of Section 11.10 of the Fire Code to buildings under 75 feet in height. Therefore, if your building is greater than 75 feet in height, it is required to comply with the radio signal strength required by the authority having jurisdiction at this time.
In light of the foregoing, it is essential that your association take action to determine whether sufficient fire department radio signal exists in your building. We recommend the association reach out to the local fire code official to determine the exact requirements for your jurisdiction. If sufficient signal does not exist in your building, it is essential to prepare a plan (including design, permits, financing, etc.) to ensure that your building will comply by the deadline of January 1, 2025.