Law Offices of Heist, Weisse, and Wolk, P.A.
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Do you own or manage buildings that consist of 3 units or greater? If so, new Fire Code rules will affect you. On December 13, 2009, new regulations were passed which require special signage to be affixed to buildings, and failure to comply could result in substantial fines. Compliance is easy. Just purchase your signs and affix them to the building. There are three different signs though, and you need to know which one you need and where to place them. The most important thing is to make sure you are in compliance, as your deadline was March 13, 2010, which is already past. The local Fire Marshals are just beginning their inspections, and you are now on notice! There is no grandfathering, and if you are not in compliance, it will be up to the local Fire Marshal to determine whether fines are imposed.

The Aldridge-Benge Firefighter Safety Act

The Act which was signed into law on December 13 by Governor Crist is in honor of 2 Orange County Florida firefighters, Todd Aldridge and Mark Benge, who were killed when the roof of a burning gift shop collapsed. The purpose of the law is to alert firefighters to the construction type of a structure they may enter in the event of a fire or other emergency operations they may be conducting requiring entry into the building, so they can better prepare for the hazards involved. The State of Florida Fire Marshal’s Office implemented Rule 69-A-60.0081 under the authority of Florida Statutes Section 633.027.

The Type of Construction the Rule Covers

The construction type that is at issue is known as “light frame”, which means construction in which repetitive wood such as beams or trusses are used, or light gauge steel is used, for either roofs, floors or walls. This pretty much covers almost all the construction in Florida with the exception of a concrete building with concrete floors and a heavy gauge steel roofing system. Trusses are prone to failure in a fire, and once one truss fails, the load is shifted to the other remaining trusses, which in turn can cause a catastrophic failure and collapse. Compounding the problem are heavy items which are often placed on floors and roofs, such as air conditioning units, which further contribute to potential roof and/or floor failure.

Are all Structures Covered?

The Rule covers all “commercial structures” of 3 units or more. From a triplex to large multifamily buildings, the Rule would apply. Although you may not look at a triplex as a “commercial” structure, for the purposes of the Rule, it will be considered commercial and covered. In addition to the typical structures where your residents may live, the Rule also possibly covers your clubhouses, maintenance shops, laundry rooms, fitness centers and any other structure which may be on the multifamily property. Interestingly, townhouses are not considered multi-unit residential structures, so they do not need to comply with the rules.

What Are These “Signs”

The signs required, or “approved symbols” as referred to in the Rule, must be a Maltese Cross which measures 8 inches horizontally and 8 inches vertically of a bright red reflective color. The signs may be as simple as a vinyl stick-on sign, or a more substantial, aluminum or composite type of sign. If the structure has light frame truss roofs, it must be marked with the letter “R”. If the building is constructed with a light frame truss floor system, it must be marked with the letter “F”, and if both light frame truss floors and roof are present, the building should be marked with the letters “RF”.

Where Do You Obtain the Signs?

Many sign makers and supply companies for the multifamily housing industry are providing these signs. They are not cost prohibitive, and most companies have them in stock or can have them made in an extremely short period of time. One such company, Giglio Signs, can assist you, keep the signs in stock and have been providing the signs to hundreds of properties throughout Florida.

Placement of the Signs

As is often the case, some laws or rules create more questions than answers, so the following explanation should be a starting point only and not relied on completely. According to the rule, the “symbol” must be placed within 24 inches of the left of the main entry door of the unit and must be placed no less than 4 feet from the bottom of the symbol to the grade, walking surface or finished floor, and no more than 6 feet from grade to the top of the symbol. Does the rule mean the edge of the symbol or the middle of the symbol? We don’t know. The Fire Marshal can get very picky at times, so we urge you to measure carefully and not try to be too close to the upper or lower limits. You can be sure that they will have their measuring tape with them. Remember that we are talking about the symbol, not the actual sign to which the symbol may be affixed, and this will affect the measurements. The symbol itself must be permanently attached to the structure on a contrasting background, or be mounted on a contrasting base material which is permanently attached to the structure. If you are unsure of the placement of the signs or whether your signs are in compliance, we recommend that you call your local Fire Marshal and have them come out to the property to meet and advise you.

Some Final Notes

Due to the importance of compliance with the new Rule and the possibility of serious multiple fines for noncompliance, we urge you to take this matter seriously. If you have not done so already, purchase your signs and call the local Fire Marshal. Many of the local Fire Marshals are overwhelmed right now with these calls, and some are not sure of the sign placement in unique circumstances. Once you have them come to the property, try to retain some kind of proof that you were told where to place the sign by the Fire Marshal and that you complied. It would be unfortunate indeed if you followed the direction of a person from the Fire Marshal’s office who came out to the property, only to have one next year state that you did not comply. See if you can get something from the Fire Marshal in writing once the signs are affixed to the building stating that you are in compliance. When shopping for the signs, you are going to find a wide range of quality and materials used. There is no prohibition on a simple stick on vinyl sign, but will the sign last, or will it be peeled off by a resident or guest? Look around and see what is available, and finally, once you have the signs affixed to the premises, make sure your maintenance staff routinely checks on the signs to see if they are damaged or missing. The local Fire Marshal will not have sympathy for you if you fail to make sure the signs stay on the premises, so keep spare signs handy, and affix them to the premises in a fashion where they are not easily removed or vandalized. Get into compliance now. Not only is it the law, but it can help save a life.


  • The Curable Noncompliance Examined PART 1