It is the intent of the Legislature that the Florida Fire Prevention Code be interpreted by fire officials and local enforcement agencies in a manner that reasonably and cost-effectively protects the public safety, health, and welfare; ensures uniform interpretations throughout this state; and provides just and expeditious processes for resolving disputes regarding such interpretations. It is the further intent of the Legislature that such processes provide for the expeditious resolution of the issues presented and that the resulting interpretation of such issues be published on the website of the division.
(1) The division shall by rule establish an informal process of rendering nonbinding interpretations of the Florida Fire Prevention Code. The division may contract with and refer interpretive issues to a third party, selected based upon cost effectiveness, quality of services to be performed, and other performance-based criteria, which has experience in interpreting and enforcing the Florida Fire Prevention Code. It is the intent of the Legislature that the division establish a Fire Code Interpretation Committee composed of seven persons and seven alternates, equally representing each area of the state, to which a party can pose questions regarding the interpretation of the Florida Fire Prevention Code provisions. The alternate member may respond to a nonbinding interpretation if a member is unable to respond.
(2) Each member and alternate member of the Fire Code Interpretation Committee must be certified as a firesafety inspector pursuant to s. 633.216(2) and must have a minimum of 5 years of experience interpreting and enforcing the Florida Fire Prevention Code. Each member and alternate member must be approved by the division and deemed by the division to have met these requirements for at least 30 days before participating in a review of a nonbinding interpretation.
(3) Each nonbinding interpretation of code provisions must be provided within 15 business days after receipt of a request for interpretation. The response period established in this subsection may be waived only with the written consent of the party requesting the nonbinding interpretation and the division. Nonbinding interpretations shall be advisory only and nonbinding on the parties or the State Fire Marshal.
(4) In order to administer this section, the division shall charge a fee for nonbinding interpretations. The fee may not exceed $150 for each request for a review or interpretation. The division may authorize payment of fees directly to the nonprofit organization under contract pursuant to subsection (1).
(5) A party requesting a nonbinding interpretation who disagrees with the interpretation issued under this section may apply for a declaratory statement from the State Fire Marshal pursuant to s. 633.104(6).
(6) The division shall issue or cause to be issued a nonbinding interpretation of the Florida Fire Prevention Code pursuant to this section when requested to do so upon submission of a petition by a fire official or by the owner or owner’s representative or the contractor or contractor’s representative of a project in dispute. The division shall adopt a petition form by rule, and the petition form must be published on the State Fire Marshal’s website. The form must, at a minimum, require:
(a) The name and address of the local fire official, including the address of the county, municipality, or special district.
(b) The name and address of the owner or owner’s representative or the contractor or contractor’s representative.
(c) A statement of the specific sections of the Florida Fire Prevention Code being interpreted by the local fire official.
(d) An explanation of how the petitioner’s substantial interests are being affected by the local interpretation of the Florida Fire Prevention Code.
(e) A statement of the interpretation of the specific sections of the Florida Fire Prevention Code by the local fire official.
(f) A statement of the interpretation that the petitioner contends should be given to the specific sections of the Florida Fire Prevention Code and a statement supporting the petitioner’s interpretation.
(g) A single question that is capable of being answered with a “yes” or “no” response.
(7) Upon receipt of a petition that meets the requirements of subsection (6), the division shall immediately provide copies of the petition to the Fire Code Interpretation Committee, and shall publish the petition and any response submitted by the local fire official on the State Fire Marshal’s website.
(8) The committee shall conduct proceedings as necessary to resolve the issues and give due regard to the petition, the facts of the matter at issue, specific code sections cited, and any statutory implications affecting the Florida Fire Prevention Code. The committee shall issue an interpretation regarding the provisions of the Florida Fire Prevention Code within 15 days after the filing of a petition. The committee shall issue an interpretation based upon the Florida Fire Prevention Code or, if the code is ambiguous, the intent of the code. The committee’s interpretation shall be provided to the petitioner and shall include a notice that if the petitioner disagrees with the interpretation, the petitioner may file a request for a declaratory statement by the State Fire Marshal under s. 633.104(6). The committee’s interpretation shall be provided to the State Fire Marshal, and the division shall publish the declaratory statement on the State Fire Marshal’s website and in the Florida Administrative Register.