FCAP Community—May 2023

FCAP Community

Published July 2023

     Florida Community Association Professionals’ (FCAP) training is offered on two levels. Level one consists of courses meeting Florida’s continuing education requirements for CAMs, and level two is the Florida Advanced CAM Studies (FACS) course. For further information about the more than 38 online continuing education classes available or to pursue the Certified Florida Community Association Manager (CFCAM) designation, please visit www.fcapgroup.com/membership/education-training/.

Marcy L. Kravit

High-Rise Fire Safety—Plan, Protect, and Be Prepared, Part I

By Marcy Kravit, CMCA, AMS, PCAM, CFCAM, CSM
Director of Community Association Management 
Hotwire Communications
FCAP Program Coordinator

     Editor’s Note: Part II will be published in a future issue of FLCAJ.

     According to FEMA the tragic loss of life from high-rise apartment building fires reminds us of the fire and life-safety challenges that tall buildings present to the emergency services and to the occupants who live or work in them.

     Because of the inherent nature of tall buildings and a series of historic fires, the practice of protecting the people who live and work in high-rise buildings has evolved over the years. Very specific sets of precautions that incorporate the most effective means of fire protection are included in every building’s design.

     Often defined by their height, high-rise buildings have a formal definition in modern building codes. Occupied floors located high above the ground present many serious challenges for fire and life safety, such as the following:

  • Fire and smoke tend to spread vertically because of the buoyant nature of the heat produced during a fire. Buildings with occupied levels above a fire floor pose a significant danger if the fire is not extinguished quickly.
  • It can be difficult to evacuate large numbers of people from elevated floors, resulting in longer evacuation times and challenges for first responders trying to reach the elevated floors.
  • Fire department aerial apparatus can only access a limited number of floors from the ground, complicating firefighting operations.

     FEMA Fire Facts at www.usfa.fema.gov/downloads/pdf/statistics/v21i2.pdf provides the following information:

  • An estimated 368,500 residential building fires were reported to fire departments within the United States from 2017 to 2019.
  • These fires caused an estimated 2,770 deaths, 11,650 injuries, and $8.1 billion in property loss. From 2017 to 2019, 77 percent of all fire deaths and 75 percent of all fire injuries occurred in residential buildings.
  • At 51 percent, cooking was the leading cause of residential building fires.

     Nearly all (93 percent) residential building cooking fires were small, confined fires. 

  • Residential building fire incidence was higher in the cooler months, peaking in January at 10 percent.
  • Residential building fires occurred most frequently in the early evening, peaking during the dinner hours from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m., when cooking fire incidence is high.
  • Nonconfined residential building fires most often started in cooking areas and kitchens (21 percent).
  • In 50 percent of nonconfined residential building fires, the fire extended beyond the room of origin. The leading causes of these larger fires were unintentional or careless actions (21 percent), electrical malfunctions (14 percent), open flames (10 percent), and intentional actions (9 percent).
  • The leading reported “factor contributing to ignition” category in nonconfined residential building fires was misuse of material or product (37 percent).
  • Smoke alarms were not present in 21 percent of nonconfined fires in occupied residential buildings.
  • Automatic extinguishing systems (AESs), including residential sprinklers, were present in only 5 percent of nonconfined fires in occupied residential buildings.

     The position of manager requires being available 24/7 for emergencies. It is critical that management provide “people-safe” procedures and educate residents by implementing a preventive approach when it comes to fire prevention and planning. Panic in high-rises during the early stages of a fire can contribute to high casualty losses. Fire control and evacuation authorities (your local fire department, consultants, association attorney, fire safety and service provider, and insurance company) should be consulted for suggestions related to your building regarding fire prevention and evacuation plans. 

     Most condominium buildings are equipped with a fire suppression sprinkler system with sprinkler heads located in each unit and in the common areas. The system automatically activates in response to a fire. Most shut-off valves are located in the stairwell landings of each floor and should never be tampered with. 

Draft a written evacuation and fire safety program

Written plan 

     A written plan in case of a fire and other emergency procedures should be agreed upon by management and the board. The emergency evacuation plan should include the following:

  1. An outline of the emergency evacuation organization plan and agreed-upon priorities, including responsibilities and authorities. Building and resident representatives should agree upon these.
  2. Detection, emergency warning systems, and reporting procedures for fire and other hazards should be provided.
  3. Coordination of central building emergency evacuation control with assigned floor emergency evacuation teams should provide for the orderly movement of persons. Pre-planning and “fire in progress” chain-of-command instructions should be detailed, and each resident should acknowledge and comply.
  4. In addition to a suitable and effective fire-detection system (both automatic and two-way voice communications), an adequate and effective system for two-way communications should be provided for every floor. The communication system will be used to direct the work assigned to floor evacuation teams and to assist in communications between the buildings’ communications control center and fire department personnel using the system during firefighting and evacuation emergencies.
  5. Management and residents should cooperate and participate in an education and training program for all emergency floor-evacuation teams, employees, and building visitors. This should include a system of education and instruction for all residents and proper posting of instructions, placards, and evacuation diagrams at strategic locations on every floor. Emergency fire procedure information should be prominently posted in corridors.
  6. The manager and/or a committee may be formed to establish the procedures and designated to establish a program, including proper documentation for regular inspections and follow up to maintain the detection and communication systems in the best operating condition.
  7. An evacuation drill program should be established with your local fire department that will include periodic practice of movement of residents to refuge areas. The frequency of these drills—quarterly, yearly, etc.—would depend upon the turnover in the building. The schedule should be maintained and documented. The drill should include the progressive movement of personnel to areas of safety. The purpose of “progressive movement” should be explained to the tenants at this time to keep all tenants a safe distance from the fire hazard without evacuating the building all at once.

Evacuation policy and plans

     Policy and plans—When new residents occupy units in high-rise buildings, a document describing the building’s emergency evacuation policy and plans should be provided by management at orientation and agreed upon by the resident. This document should describe fire detection and fire reporting systems and the emergency evacuation plans and communication system provided by the building. 

     Evacuation routes—Drawings, diagrams, evacuation routes, and similar information should be included in the building’s emergency evacuation plans. Floor numbering and direction of travel should be indicated in the stairwells.

     Maps—Maps with means of egress indicated should be drafted to include means of egress comprising the vertical and horizontal evacuation routes. The maps should include locations of the following components: 

  • Fire alarm pull stations
  • Fire extinguishers and fire hose cabinets
  • Elevator lobbies
  • Exit/stairways identification
  • Re-entry floors

     Imminent danger—The building’s emergency evacuation plan should define “imminent danger” situations and provide for immediate temporary action by responsible persons assigned to emergency floor evacuation teams.

     Central control—The building’s emergency evacuation plan should indicate how the front desk/security personnel control will function in the event of fire and the need to move and evacuate residents.

     Floor evacuation teams—The building’s emergency evacuation plan should include the duties and responsibilities of emergency floor evacuation teams.

     Information to residents—The building’s emergency evacuation plan should describe evacuation training to be provided and copies of written information furnished to all residents, or have it handy on the website for reference purposes. Fire and emergency evacuation information should be posted at strategic locations on every floor and elevator.

Never Use the Elevator in a Fire

     Most likely the elevator will shut down in the event of a fire. Direct evacuation procedures should be facilitated by utilizing the public address system, if available. The elevator may malfunction, and residents could potentially get trapped in a burning building. Proceed immediately to the ground floor. Leave the building and stay clear of firefighters, and let them know if anyone is trapped inside. Cameras can be helpful during this time. 

Mobility- impaired and Infirm Residents

     These residents may require special assistance in the event of a fire. A list of these residents should identify them to evacuate first. This avoids the possibility of residents in need of assistance being pushed and falling down, which slows down the evacuation process and may cause injury. If there is evidence of a fire, the resident should be positioned near the exit/stairway that is located farthest away from the fire. 

Detection and report

     Detection, automatic alarm systems, smoke alarm detectors, pull stations, and/or automatic sprinkler systems should be a part of the total fire protection preparedness program and should be inspected. However, if a fire is detected or the start of a fire is witnessed, it should be reported immediately. 

     Smoke alarms sense smoke well before you can, alerting you to danger. Smoke alarms need to be in every bedroom, outside of the sleeping areas (like a hallway), and on each level (including the basement) of your home. Do not put smoke alarms in your kitchen or bathrooms.

     Choose an alarm that is listed with a testing laboratory, meaning it has met certain standards for protection, and ensure that the pull stations installed outdoors are outdoor UL weatherproof rated. I had an association that installed indoor pull stations outdoors to save money; they did not last or withstand the outdoor elements, and the fire marshal required replacements.  

     For the best protection, use combination smoke and carbon monoxide alarms that are interconnected throughout the home. These can be installed by a qualified electrician, so that when one sounds, they all sound. This ensures you can hear the alarm no matter where in your home the alarm originates.

     Evacuation priorities—Generally, immediate evacuation will be from the floor where a fire or explosion emergency occurs and the two floors immediately above, and the two floors immediately below the emergency floor. These occupants will be directed to a refuge area and will be given movement priority.

     Training personnel—Qualified fire control and emergency evacuation professionals should do the training; adequate time for training must be provided. A printed manual containing details of the building’s emergency evacuation program should be provided to all members of the building and emergency evacuation floor team.

Betsy Barbieux

Because You Asked
By Betsy Barbieux, CAM, CFCAM, CMCA


     I have a couple of questions.

  1. Can a board vote to fund a pooled reserve when we have component reserves without an owners’ vote?
  2. Then, what happens to the funds in the component reserves? Can they be combined with the pooled reserves, or do those funds have to be used first?

– Brenda 


  1. Yes, the board can vote to create a pooled reserve and designate the items that will be in the pool, with no owners’ vote needed. Starting the next month, the reserve contribution will be posted in your accounting system to the pooled reserve, and no monies will be posted to the line items.
  2. Regarding the existing funds in the component line items, the board can expend those as needed, OR have the owners vote to dump all of those line item reserves into the pooled reserves. The owners will vote on the limited proxy with the statutory caveat on it.

     If you don’t dump line-item reserves into the pool, it will take a long time to build up the pooled reserves. 
     From the time the pool is established, only monies for components designated in the pool can be used. It’s not a slush fund for anything that the board wants to do. 
– Betsy

     If a person was on the board and certified and then was off for a year, does that returning board member have to get a new certification?– Bonnie

     Yes, if a board member has any break in service, he or she must recertify.
– Betsy

     I hear there were changes to Chapter 720, Homeowners’ Association Act. Can you give me the highlights?
– Ron

     House Bill 919 is expected to be signed into law. Here are the highlights that stand out to me—720.303—All board meeting notices must specifically identify agenda items. This is a clarification of good business practice. 
     720.3033(3)—Officers, directors, or managers cannot solicit, offer to accept, or accept anything or service of value or kickback for which consideration has not been provided for his or her own benefit or that of his or her immediate family. They added “kickback.”
     720.3033(4)(a)—A director or an officer charged by information or indictment must be removed from office if the issue is about a forgery of a ballot envelope or voting certificate used in an HOA election, theft or embezzlement involving the association’s funds or property, destruction of or refusal to allow inspection or copying of an official record…within the time periods required by general law in furtherance of a crime, or obstruction of justice as provided in chapter 843.
     If a criminal charge is pending against an officer or director, he or she may not be appointed or elected to an officer or director position and may not have access to official records of any association, except pursuant to a court order. 
     And they have added 720.3065 that addresses fraudulent voting activities relating to association elections.
– Betsy 

FCAP Service Provider Spotlight

     Condominium Advisory Group was founded by two condominium veterans, John Cadden and Mike Fish, to advise and consult on behalf of condominium associations that find themselves in financial hardship due to deferred maintenance or other matters. With the deadlines under the Florida Building Safety Act (SB 4-D and “glitch” bill SB-154) looming, associations may find themselves faced with increased assessments to pay for immediate repairs required as well as needing to fully fund all items noted under the structural integrity reserve study (SIRS). With over 75 years of combined experience, it is our goal to support each association to make the best decisions for its owners. We work in partnership with the condominium association counsel and management company to educate owners on the process of condominium termination, and if that is the path they choose, walk them through the steps of the termination process. Additionally, we handle all owner questions and correspondence as we guide them through an orderly exit process that places them in control of the process. If you find your community in a predicament that requires a comprehensive analysis, we welcome the opportunity to help your community. 

     For more information, please visit www.coadvisorygroup.com or contact us at 321-300-4425.