According to Florida law, by December 31, 2016, a residential condominium association not already in compliance with “the requirements for a fire sprinkler system” must apply for a building permit to begin the process of becoming compliant (“retrofitting”), or opt out of the requirements according to the unit owner voting requirements laid out in statute.
Unfortunately, condominium associations are hearing confusing and conflicting information, including statements by the Florida Department of Business & Professional Regulation (DBPR), regarding which buildings are subject to the requirements. As a public service announcement, the Florida Fire Sprinkler Association (FFSA) and the American Fire Sprinkler Association – Florida Chapter (AFSA-FL) jointly issue this guidance.
The “requirements for a fire sprinkler system” come from the Florida Fire Prevention Code, as adopted by reference and promulgated in rules by the Division of the State Fire Marshal.
According to the code, with certain exceptions, all high-rise buildings must have fire sprinklers. The code further defines a high-rise as “a building where the floor of an occupiable story is greater than 75 feet above the lowest level of fire department vehicle access.” The exceptions are for buildings where every dwelling unit has exterior access, and buildings that have an approved engineered life safety system.
The State Fire Marshal issued similar guidance here: State Fire Marshal Retrofit Statement.
In addition, State Senator Jeremy Ring recently wrote a letter to DBPR, saying that as a past sponsor of the law, he viewed DBPR’s recent statements as “simply an incorrect interpretation” of the law.
“For residential condominium buildings less than 75 feet in height, no action is necessary,” said Bart Trueblood, president of AFSA-FL. “No local or state code in Florida requires retrofitting fire sprinklers in existing low- or mid-rise condominiums.”
“Condominium associations with buildings over 75 feet in height may fall under the requirement, and should seek advice from a competent fire protection contractor,” said Mark Peters, president of FFSA.
Click on this FAQ for additional information on the high-rise retrofit requirement.
FFSA and AFSA-FL are member-driven organizations made up of the leading fire protection contractors in Florida, dedicated to protecting lives and property through public education and promotion of fire sprinklers. Find out more about these organizations at these websites: www.afsafl.org and www.floridafiresprinkler.com