Elevator Pose Problems after Hurricane Irma in Boca High R

By:Marci Shatzman - October 28, 2017


Boca Raton's Assistant Fire Chief Matt Welhaf never got more calls about out-of-service elevators than he did after Hurricane Irma from people who live in beachfront buildings.

Turns out there's a city law about keeping at least one elevator in service for public safety/paramedic access during a storm, Welhaf said at the Oct. 17 Beach Condominium Association meeting in San Remo.

"A number of apartment buildings were de-energizing elevators too early. They must stay in service for access so we can reach people quickly after a storm," he said.

The law would remain in effect even if elevator companies require buildings to lock elevators onto an upper floor to prevent the pits from flooding, Welhaf added. "I want to see an emergency plan on how you would manage elevators."

The city ordinance stands, even if there's a mandatory evacuation order for the barrier island, he said.

"We don't have the manpower to say you have to leave, but it's frustrating people don't heed the warning…for their own well-being," he said. The department will transport people who can't evacuate to the special-needs shelter, he added.

The department also had 20 buildings with noise complaints from security alarms that went off during the hurricane, he said. That was not a priority, he said, adding residents' safety comes first.

He also announced Boca Raton City Council allowed the department to hire another staffer for Med 3, the beach unit at Palmetto Park Road and State Road A1A.

"Now we have a permanent staffer 24/7," instead of using 10 hours overtime for a third staffer, he said "We have a lieutenant and two firefighters/paramedics."

The new staffer is in training with the rest of the new hires and will be in service by the end of November, he said.

Before the meeting, guests were invited to see the 50th anniversary display residents Mary and Bob Isenbek assembled in the clubhouse. The exhibit was complete with vintage documents and photos with the help of the Boca Raton Historical Society & Museum.

The builder was inspired by a trip to Sanremo, Italy, the couple said. Also on display was a plaque recognizing the building for its turtle friendly lighting during sea turtle nesting season on the beaches.