Approaching Deadlines in the Florida Fire Prevention Code: What Building Owners Need to Know
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Approaching Deadlines in the Florida Fire Prevention Code: What Building Owners Need to Know

08/08/19

Several important deadlines written into the Florida Fire Prevention Code (NFPA 1) are approaching, and building owners may need to act sooner than they think. The deadlines are related to a serious safety issue: Walls and low-e glass windows can block radio waves, reducing signal strength for firefighters and first responders who desperately need open lines of communication during an emergency. 
    
The Florida legislature responded to this safety challenge by establishing requirements for radio signal strength inside buildings. Section 11.10 of the Florida Fire Prevention Code states in part that “in all new and existing buildings, minimum radio signal strength for fire department communications shall be maintained at a level determined by the [authority having jurisdiction “AHJ”)].”

New construction must be compliant to receive a certificate of occupancy permit, and existing buildings are expected to be brought up to Code if they are not already in compliance. 

However, Section 633.202 of the Florida Statutes extends the deadline for existing high-rise buildings. According to § 718.1085 of the statutes, a “high rise” is any building that measures more than 75 feet between the lowest level the fire department is likely to access and the highest floor that can be occupied.

§ 633.202 gives owners of these buildings until January 1, 2022 to meet minimum radio strength requirements for fire department communications and two-way radio system enhancement communications.

However, the statute also contains several other important deadlines. Owners and managers of high-rise buildings in Florida should be aware of the following compliance dates: 

  • December 31, 2019: Existing buildings that do not comply with Section 633.202 have until this date to apply for an extension permit with the State. The extension expires January 1, 2022; as a condition of granting the permit, the State requires owners to explain the changes that they anticipate will bring the building into compliance by that date.
  • January 1, 2022: All high-rise buildings – with the exception of apartment buildings – must comply with radio strength requirements by this date, including buildings that were granted an extension permit.
  • December 31, 2022: Existing apartment complexes have longer than other high-rise buildings to ensure two-way radio communication is reliable within their walls, but owners must obtain a permit for the necessary communications installation by this date. 
  • January 25, 2025: All existing apartment complexes must meet § 633.202’s requirements by this date. 

There are two exceptions to the 2025 deadline, however. Any apartment buildings that include assisted living must follow the earlier timeline to become compliant by January 1, 2022. Mixed-use facilities must comply with the strictest standard for which there is some use – for example, a building with residential space above and commercial space below will also be held to the earlier timeline.

Public Safety 2

It’s important to remember that these extensions only apply to high-rises, and all other existing buildings could see the code enforced at any time. 

Enforcement is ultimately left up to the discretion of local AHJs, but delaying compliance isn’t worth the risk. While AHJs might prioritize inspecting high-value, high-occupancy locations, like schools and hospitals, ignoring the regulations could set up a building owner for a more expensive on-the-spot renovation or even potential legal liability in the event of an emergency. 

Most importantly, building owners have a responsibility to keep their facilities safe for occupants. Anything that gets in the way of first responders doing their jobs could have tragic consequences. 

To determine whether or not they are compliant, building owners in Florida should schedule a test of the radio strength within their facilities. Graybar can coordinate this testing and provide proof that a building satisfies Code requirements. 

If a building doesn’t meet radio strength requirements, the owner may install in-building radio enhancement systems that can boost signal strength to ensure first responders maintain radio contact everywhere in the building. A Graybar representative can help identify the right telecommunications installation for a particular building.

Click here to schedule a test and determine if your building is in compliance with the latest regulations.