During a fire, a lightweight truss construction can collapse in as little as 20 minutes. That’s what happened in 1989, when Orange County firefighters Todd Aldridge and Mark Benge were killed when the roof of a building that was on fire collapsed.
The Aldridge-Benge Firefighter Safety Act of 2008 became state law Dec. 13, 2009, requiring owners of any commercial, industrial or multiunit residential structure to place a sign visible from the roadway that warns firefighters about the type of structure they’re entering. And soon, those signs will be popping up at buildings throughout Longboat Key.
According to Longboat Key Fire Marshal Lou Gagliardi, the Longboat Key department underwent training with West Manatee Fire Rescue District during the summer to identify the trusses. Firefighter/paramedics will perform inspections to determine what structures need the sign when they perform their regular life-safety inspections and tactical surveys.
“Structural collapse is a major cause of firefighter fatalities,” Gagliardi said. “This sign is a reminder for firefighters of the type of construction they’re going into.”
Firefighter/paramedics will inspect town buildings before inspecting commercial and multifamily structures. While most high-rise buildings will not be affected by the requirement, most of the two- to three-story motels and condominiums on the island that have wooden frames will be required to erect the signs,
Gagliardi said. Bringing the entire island into compliance could take a year or two.
But placement of the signs could be complicated: Condominium residences with multiple structures must place the sign on each building. The signs will be placed at the main entrance for buildings that have one, but the department is still determining where to place them for buildings without a main entrance.
“We’ll get together and see what makes sense,” Gagliardi said. “The thing we aim for is reasonability of any code. It’s not just black and white.”
Signs cost $10 and must be installed within 90 days of the date on which the property owner is notified of the requirement. Owners who disagree about the type of construction in the structure will have 45 days to provide written verification from a licensed engineer or architect.
Contact Robin Hartill at [email protected].