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Florida’s threshold inspection law was created to prevent building collapses

After a condominium collapsed in Cocoa Beach in 1981, Florida passed a law requiring a special inspector to oversee the construction of certain buildings.

TAMPA, Fla. — A high-rise building partially collapsed early Thursday morning in Surfside, Florida, not far from Miami Beach, killing at least one person.

At the time of this article, rescue teams are on scene as part of a massive search and rescue operation. 

It's still unclear how many people are unaccounted for at the moment. A family reunification center has been set up at 9301 Collins Ave. in Surfside, Florida. If you cannot contact your loved one you are asked to call 305-614-1819.

RELATED: How to check on family from the Surfside high-rise collapse

The catastrophe might have you wondering how often high-rise buildings and other structures are inspected and regulated in Florida.

Another tragedy prompted the Threshold Inspection Law in 1981 which is still on the books in Florida.

A 2020 newsletter by the Florida Board of Professional Engineers explains how we got here.

In 1981, Harbour Cay Condominium, a five-story building in Cocoa Beach was under construction when it collapsed. Eleven workers were killed and 23 others injured.

After determining engineering and construction problems caused the tragic accident, Florida passed the threshold inspection law which adds more oversight throughout the construction process.

RELATED: Video shows Miami-area condo collapse; 1 dead, 35 rescued, as many as 51 unaccounted for

Florida law defines a threshold building as any structure greater than three stories or 50 feet in height, or exceeds 5,000 square feet and can hold at least 500 people.

In other words, if the building is tall or holds a lot of people, a state-certified special inspector, also called a threshold inspector, is required to oversee the build and specifically look at structural elements to ensure compliance and safety.

The special inspector must verify that the work being performed on-site by the contractor is in compliance with the permitted construction documents on record with the local building department.

After the special inspector signs off on the structure, there is no state-wide law mandating structural inspections on buildings in Florida.

RELATED: What we know about the site of the Miami-area partial building collapse: Champlain Towers South

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