If you own or manage a high-rise condominium, you are likely aware of the requirement to retrofit the buildings with fire sprinkler systems or engineered life-safety systems (ELSS) as per the Condominium Act. However, recent amendments to the Florida Fire Prevention Code (Fire Code) are set to change the deadlines for installation. While the Condominium Act allows completion by January 1, 2024, the Fire Code amendments, expected to take effect in July 2023, will introduce new timelines. Under the proposed changes, high-rise condominiums must decide on either a fire sprinkler system or ELSS by January 1, 2024.
By January 1, 2024, the high-rise condominium shall either select a fire sprinkler system or an ELSS. This selection will then be sent to the local fire code authority having jurisdiction responsible for enforcement of the Fire Code by February 1, 2025.
Timeline if choosing to install a fire sprinkler system:
- January 1, 2025 – it is imperative for the association to hire a Florida Registered Professional Engineer who will be responsible for developing the engineered design criteria for the fire sprinkler system. These criteria will then need to be submitted to the Authority Having Jurisdiction for their thorough review and subsequent approval.
- January 1, 2026 - the association must ensure that their chosen fire sprinkler contractor has applied for and obtained the necessary permit from the Authority Having Jurisdiction to proceed with the installation of the fire sprinkler system.
- January 1, 2027 - it is of utmost importance that the installation of the fire sprinkler system is completed and meets the required standards set by the Authority Having Jurisdiction. This will be evidenced by successfully passing the final inspections conducted by the Authority Having Jurisdiction, and must be accomplished.
Timeline if choosing to install an ELSS:
- January 1, 2025 – is required to hire a Florida Registered Professional Engineer. This engineer will conduct a thorough evaluation of the building to develop an Emergency Life Safety System (ELSS). The ELSS will be designed to ensure the safety of the occupants and the building itself in case of emergencies. Once the design is completed, it will be submitted to the Authority Having Jurisdiction for review and approval. This step is crucial to ensure compliance with safety regulations and standards.
- January 1, 2026 - the association's contractors are required to apply for and obtain the necessary permits for the installation of all improvements associated with the ELSS. This includes any modifications or additions needed to implement the system effectively.
- January 1, 2027 - it is mandatory for the installation to be completed and to pass the final inspections conducted by the Authority Having Jurisdiction. This ensures that the system is fully functional and meets all safety requirements.
Section 718.112(2)(n) of the Florida Statutes addresses the installation of fire sprinkler systems and engineered life safety systems (ELSS) in buildings. Interestingly, this section does not specify a specific deadline for the installation of these systems. Instead, it states that the local Authority Having Jurisdiction cannot demand completion of retrofitting with a fire sprinkler system or ELSS before January 1, 2024.
In response to this lack of clarity, the State Fire Marshal and local fire marshals have clarified their stance on enforcing deadlines. They have stated that they will only enforce the deadlines outlined in the Fire Code. Consequently, any amendments made to the Fire Code will effectively extend the deadline for the installation of fire sprinkler systems or ELSS. Rest assured, we are closely monitoring this situation and will promptly inform you once the amendments to the Fire Code are approved. This will provide further clarity on the timeline for installation of these crucial safety systems.