Putting up some shutters and taking them down often is a lot of hard, sweaty work. But it becomes a safety issue, and maybe a code violation issue, if you keep them up.
After getting a scare from a storm such as Hurricane Dorian, people in Palm Beach County who had to put up shutters on their homes have a dilemma: when should I take them down?
Many people know that peak hurricane season lasts until Nov. 30, and some folks watch storm maps (and that current disturbance forming off the coast of Africa) religiously, so is the hassle of taking shutters down (and maybe putting them back up again) worth it?
ASAP after a storm, it’s important to remove shutters and wood covering your doors/windows. If you can’t remove ALL of them, AT LEAST REMOVE them from ONE window in EACH room. Always have 2 ways out in case of an emergency. Don’t get trapped! #YourSafetyOurPriority #TeamPBCFR pic.twitter.com/VgRlr0OYNX— PBC Fire Rescue (@PBCFR) September 4, 2019
Yes, says Palm Beach County Fire Rescue. In fact, as soon as possible.
It’s not because the shutters are unsightly or their very presence invokes memories of storms past — it’s a matter of safety.
If removing all shutters at once is too daunting of a task, fire rescue suggests removing shutters or plywood from at least one window in each room of a home.
"Always have 2 ways out in case of an emergency," Palm Beach County Fire Rescue wrote Wednesday. "Don’t get trapped!"
Individual municipalities and home owners associations can have specific rules for when you should remove shutters to avoid fines, so you should check with your town or HOA.
Codes regarding shutters can vary by city
As an example, in Wellington, code requires residents remove hurricane shutters from windows within 72 hours of “a storm event.” When a homeowner is absent — that includes residents who may be seasonal — shutters can be up for two 15-day periods during hurricane season.
Royal Palm Beach gives residents two weeks to take down storm shutters.
In West Palm Beach, permitted shutters can remain up indefinitely per city code, but unpermitted shutters or plywood need to be taken down unless there is a watch or warning in effect. In 2007, the West Palm Beach Commission voted to mandate shutters be taken down within three days of a storm. It later repealed the ordinance after social agencies raised concern about forcing seniors to take such quick action.
The city said this week that city code "does not address when shutters can be put up or when they must be removed. In general, if the shutters were installed with permits they can be deployed. Homeowner associations may have their own rules."
The city also referenced its fire code, adding: "Though there is no Code language for how long, it is recommended that shutters be removed as soon as possible especially if the building is occupied.
At no point should exit windows/doors be blocked beyond pending storms if a building is occupied.
In referencing Hurricane Dorian, the city added, no building that is occupied "should remain shuttered past this weekend if there are no pending storm conditions.
"Usually, if people can’t get out, (West Palm Beach Fire-Rescue) can’t get in."
Jupiter doesn't impose a specific time frame for how long a resident can keep up hurricane shutters, said Kate Moretto, the town's public information officer.
Palm Beach Gardens’ city ordinance says that if any portion of Palm Beach County falls within the National Hurricane Center's five-day cone of probability for a named tropical storm, hurricane shutters can be installed up to five days before landfall. They can remain in place for no more than five days after the storm passes.
PBG Fire Marshal Dave DeRita said, while there is no fire ordinance, he would like to see them taken down as soon as a storm has safely passed. "They hinder rescue efforts in the event of a fire. They slow us getting into a home and hinder us from ventilating a house of heat from fire. They also hinder us from getting firefighters a second means of escape if they need to bail out in the event the fire blocks their previous escape route."
The city of Lake Worth Beach said they can’t advise whether residents should take down shutters, but they said that shutters can cause a fire hazard in that they block a potential escape route and can also delay fire rescue’s response.
HOAs in Palm Beach County likely will send warning notices to residents about shutters and when they should be taken down.
After Hurricane Irma hit the area two years ago, some people kept shutters up for months after the storm, forcing code enforcement crews to issue citations.
Palm Beach Post reporters Tony Doris, Sam Howard, Jodie Wagner and Bailey LeFever contributed to this report.
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