Emergency Management Requirements: When Property Owners Must Take Action to Secure Loose Objects on Sites

As Hurricane Dorian barrels toward South Florida – possibly making landfall in Palm Beach County one day after Labor Day – property owners and contractors are advised to begin securing outdoor furniture and loose objects on their properties in order to minimize damage and comply with local and county ordinances in their respective communities.

Both Miami-Dade County and Broward County impose an affirmative duty to secure loose objects when a severe weather advisory is issued. In Miami‐Dade County, the duty takes effect upon the National Weather Service issuing a tropical storm warning, hurricane watch, or hurricane warning. And in Broward County, the duty is triggered by the National Weather Service issuing a hurricane watch.

Other governments, like the town of Palm Beach, have halted inspections scheduled for Friday, Aug. 30, and instead, are devoting resources toward inspecting active construction sites and working with contractors to ensure the sites are safe and secure before the storm. Many other local governments are taking similar steps.

Here are some of the regulations to be aware of:

Miami-Dade County has specific emergency management provisions governing loose objects at non-construction sites and requires that those loose objects be secured by either (a) storing the loose object in a building or structure, or (b) bracing, bundling, or fastening the loose object to a fixed structure or in a manner sufficient to prevent the loose object from becoming windborne during a severe weather event. The county defines a loose object as “any object contained in any outdoor location of any residential, commercial, and industrial property in incorporated and unincorporated Miami‐Dade County that may become windborne during a severe weather event including but not limited to outdoor furniture such as chairs and tables, display racks, bicycles, toys, loose debris, bulky waste, gardening supplies, household items, and business or industrial supplies or materials.” Miami-Dade County Code, § 8B-18.

At construction sites, “best efforts must be used so that all furniture, display racks, material, and similar loose objects in exposed outdoor locations, including loose materials, are secured or otherwise appropriately braced to rigid construction or stored in buildings to the extent practicable given the conditions.” Miami-Dade County Code, § 8-16. Furthermore, the County Code requires the Building Official to issue orders (oral or written) to secure construction sites to “any person on the premises most logically responsible for maintenance,” who must act on the order before the arrival of tropical storm force winds.

For detailed requirements regarding hoisting equipment and cranes, look to Section 8E-11 of the County Code.

Broward County’s regulations regarding securing loose objects during storms are set forth in Section 110.13 of the County’s Amendments to the Florida Building Code (Building), titled “Special Hurricane Inspections.” This section requires that, “all furniture, display racks, material, and similar loose objects in exposed outdoor locations, shall be lashed to rigid construction or stored in buildings” and provides that the Building Official shall issue orders (oral or written) to secure all construction sites to “any person on the premises most logically responsible for maintenance.” Alternatively, the Building Official is authorized to fax these order to the “responsible entity.”

Property owners and contractors who fail to appropriately secure loose materials on construction sites or other properties may be subject to county‐imposed fines and could be liable for damage to property or injuries caused by loose materials that were not appropriately secured.

Be sure to follow only official reports and directions when it comes to weather warnings and safety.