TREASURE ISLAND — Treasure Island will enlist the muscle of its Code Enforcement Board to persuade building owners to comply with fire safety regulations and state building codes.
When it comes to fire code compliance, Fire Chief William Barrs noted “this is an area where the current practices of the city do not provide a method to compel compliance with the adopted code.”
Under a plan unanimously adopted by city commissioners at their April 2 meeting, after given ample opportunity to fix violations, building owners who refuse to comply with fire and building codes will face stiff fines from the city’s Code Enforcement Board.
Barrs explained to compel compliance with fire safety regulations staff’s proposal is to give the building owners sufficient time to remedy any deficiencies noted during the annual inspection of their property. City officials will then provide one courtesy notification, which allows an additional 30 days to correct the issues.
If not corrected within that time frame, the city will issue a notice of violation requiring compliance within fifteen days, he said.
The fire chief explained for significant violations, where more time is needed, the department will work with the building owner.
“The idea is to bring the property into compliance,” he added.
The failure to bring the property up to code after the period referenced in the notice of violation would result in referral to the Code Enforcement Board for appropriate action.
The city also plans strengthen stop work orders issued by the building department.
Barrs told commissioners the Florida Building Code and the city’s code of ordinances each describe the issuance of a stop work order as the action of the building official, when any work regulated by the Florida Building Code is either left in a dangerous or unsafe condition or the construction is contrary to the code.
Until the recent action taken by the City Commission “neither the Florida Building Code nor the City of Treasure Island Code of Ordinances provided an effective means to enforce the action of a stop work order,” Barrs said.
He explained the city can now use its Code Enforcement Board to enforce stop work orders.
Under the plan approved by city commissioners, building code violators will now receive a courtesy notice providing for 15 days to address a problem that resulted in a stop work order. If no action is taken to remedy the violation, the property owner will receive a notice of violation providing approximately 15 additional days to remedy the situation.
If there is no resolution after that time, the Code Enforcement Board will hear the case with the ability to levy fines. The notice of hearing generally provides at least an additional 15 days, often longer, until the next regularly scheduled Code Enforcement Board hearing date.
In another action, the Barrs said it not commonly known that when firefighters risk their lives to put out blazes in tall buildings, such as hotels and multi-level apartment structures, their radio messages cannot always be received by commanders on the ground.
“Some tall buildings are constructed with materials that block radio transmissions. This can make for a very dangerous situation,” Barrs told city commissioners during a recent meeting.
Modern building design and construction techniques, especially those required to satisfy requirements for LEED-certified building designs, make it difficult or impossible for the county’s 911 system to provide reliable two-way radio coverage for first responders operating inside of buildings, he said
Mandatory instillation of two-way radio communications enhancement systems help ensure the safety of building occupants and first responders.
The system works by extending the coverage of a public safety communications system to the interior areas of the building, through the use of special bi-directional amplifiers and a network of indoor antennas strategically located to provide reliable public safety radio system coverage throughout the interior of a building, Barrs said.
State legislators mandated that cities and counties ensure they are in compliance with the Florida Fire Prevention Code, requiring instillation of radio enhancement systems where needed, in a specific time frame.
At their regular session, city commissioners unanimously endorsed Barrs’ plan to bring high-rise, commercial and multi-family residential buildings into compliance with new fire codes.
The chief explained a letter will be delivered to all commercial and multi-family residential building managers explaining the process for ensuring compliance with the Florida Fire Prevention Code.
“We will also make available a pre-inspection checklist for occupants to use in preparing for their annual fire inspection, ” he added.
When it comes to those high-rise structures that may block radio transmissions, affected building owners will have to comply with minimum radio strength and two-way radio system communication enhancements by Jan. 1, 2022. However, by Dec. 31, 2019, an owner of an existing building must complete testing by a certified third-party provider.
If not in compliance with the requirements for minimum radio strength, the building owners must apply for an appropriate permit for the required installation and must demonstrate that the building will become compliant by Jan. 1, 2022, Barrs said.
Existing apartment buildings are not required to comply until Jan. 1, 2025. However, existing apartment buildings are required to apply for the appropriate permit for the required communications installation by Dec. 31, 2022, he said.
He estimated about five high-rise structures in Treasure Island may have to be retrofitted. Building owners with questions can contact the chief at the Fire Department for more information.