FLORIDA – Florida drags feet for decades on fire safety for condos

CCFJ.NET: Florida drags feet for decades on fire safety for condos
Article Courtesy of The Sun Sentinel
By Steve Bousquet
Published May 21, 2019

 Man discovered fire hundreds of thousands of years ago.

And for almost that long, or so it seems, politicians and taxpayers in Florida have been arguing about fire. It’s fire safety, to be specific, and whether high-rise condos should be required to be retrofitted with sprinkler systems in case of fire.

To fire safety experts, this is a matter of life and death. To condo unit owners, it’s a matter of money, and they vote.
Can you guess who’s winning?

Condo buildings taller than 75 feet must have sprinkler systems or, as an alternative, emergency life safety systems to meet a Jan. 1, 2020, deadline. Condo owners can vote to opt out of sprinklers by majority vote, but the deadline remains controversial and could be expensive.

Cost estimates of sprinklers vary wildly, from $1,500 to $20,000 per condo unit.

You could sit in a cave and rub two sticks together for 10 years and not come close to the amount of time the Legislature has spent dithering over this. The subject has been around for 19 years, since a statewide fire code first required sprinklers. The past three governors — three! — have vetoed the Legislature’s extension of deadlines.
When it comes to all talk and no action in the Legislature, no other issue comes close.

In 2006, Jeb Bush’s last year as governor, the Legislature voted to push back the sprinkler deadline to 2025. Bush vetoed what he called “an arbitrary postponement of an already distant time frame” and said the change “presents an unacceptable safety risk, especially to Florida’s many elderly condominium residents.”

In 2006, former Gov. Jeb Bush vetoed an extension of a deadline for high-rise condos to be retrofitted with fire safety sprinklers. Thirteen years later, the battle still rages.

Bush’s successor, Gov. Charlie Crist, vetoed another extension in 2010, and former Gov. Rick Scott kept the string going two years ago, when he vetoed an extension soon after a massive fire in a high-rise in London killed dozens of people.

“While I am particularly sensitive to regulations that increase the cost of living, the recent London high-rise fire, which tragically took at least 79 lives, illustrates the importance of life safety protections,” wrote Scott, who throughout his eight-year tenure was such a critic of state regulations that he abolished the growth management agency.  Read more:

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