When it comes to protecting the public, first responders rely on wireless communications to stay in contact with one another. However, standard wireless communication networks aren’t enough for first responders who rely on those communications to keep the public, and each other, safe during dangerous situations. More than 72% of people who make phone calls indoors experience dropped calls and slow download speeds. Consider what could happen in the event that a wireless network drops a 9-1-1 call in the middle of an emergency.

Emergency responder radio coverage (ERRC) systems ensure that first responders are able to rely on their handheld radio communications to stay in touch to provide care to the public. ERRCs enhance first responder communications, allowing important information to be transmitted back to a management location to coordinate appropriate emergency response. But how exactly do ERRCs work? And what makes them different from standard wireless communication networks? Here, we’ll take a look at the most frequently asked questions about first responder communications and ERRCs.

How do ERRCs work?

Local, state, and federal law requires new and existing commercial buildings to provide dependable wireless technologies that boost the signal for two-way portable land mobile radios (LMR), which first responders rely on. To be compliant with state and federal guidelines, an ERRC system needs to penetrate all areas of a commercial building. This includes areas of the building that are especially difficult for traditional wireless networks to get a signal in such as a basement, stairwell, or shielded area. To ensure these areas receive a signal, a distributed antenna system (DAS) needs to be installed. A DAS system includes a donor antenna, a bi-directional amplifier (BDA), and an in-building antenna.

Does every commercial property need an ERRC system installed?

Yes, both new and existing commercial buildings are required to provide ERRC system coverage for first responders to remain compliant with local, state, and federal law. Commercial properties that are undergoing major renovations are also required to support ERRC systems. Each commercial property needs to be tested to verify that first responder communications work in any location on and inside the building.

When should a commercial property’s ERRC system be tested?

A new ERRC system ought to be tested twice. The first time the system should be tested is when the structure of the building has been complete and all windows and doors are sufficiently installed. The second time the ERRC system test should be conducted is after a remodel, tenant improvement, or addition has been made to the building. This is because these new additions can affect the radio signal available inside the commercial property. Because of this, it’s essential that the building be retested after any additions, remodels, or renovations are completed.

A test on your ERRC system is conducted using professional-grade RF spectrum analyzers Using a specified grid pattern, these analyzers are used to measure the signal strength inside and throughout your building. The test results for your ERRC system are compiled in a report and then sent to the building owner and fire department where the report will be reviewed and determined whether any changes to the system need to be made.

What happens if my building fails the test?

In the event that your building fails its ERRC system test, a distributed antenna system will need to be installed in the building as a back-up system to boost the signal of the ERRC. To begin the process of setting up a DAS, you’ll need a permit from your local building department to construct it. Once the commercial DAS has been successfully constructed and installed, you’ll need to have the building tested again to ensure the strength of the signal is compliant with local, state, and federal requirements. The results of the new test will be compiled and given to your fire department who will conduct a final inspection of your ERRC and DAS before signing off on the system.

Should I include the costs of an ERRC system in my budget?

It’s recommended to include the costs of an ERRC system installation and DAS installation into the budget for your new commercial property or major renovation. By budgeting ahead of time, you’ll be better prepared for when you need the system installed so you won’t have to worry about not being compliant. Each commercial property has a different structure and layout and so every ERRC system will vary in terms of its signal. Because of this, you’ll not only want to budget for the ERRC system itself but also for the testing process. Depending on the square footage of your property and the signal your ERRC system provides, the cost to test your system could run anywhere from $250 to $1,500 per test. Budget for the higher end of this price range to keep any potential surprises from cutting into your budget.

Commercial developers may choose to include their ERRC system into the overall design-stage plans of their properties. This is because the overall technology infrastructure can sometimes be able to address potential connectivity and pathway issues for first responder communications. Remember that you need a permit before you begin constructing your ERRC system with the rest of your commercial property.

Does my ERRC system really need to be retested after a renovation?

It’s understandable not to want to retest an ERRC system after it’s already been tested once before. However, because layout changes can easily impact the signal of your ERRC system in your commercial property, it’s essential to have your ERRC system retested. Not only is it a requirement to have your ERRC system’s signal retested to remain compliant, but it also shows support for first responders. The last thing you want is to have first responder communications become interrupted in the event of an emergency because your ERRC system isn’t compliant with local, state, or federal requirements.

It’s important to note that ERRC systems not only need to be retested after a renovation, but they also need to be retested every year just like any other emergency alert system in your commercial building. This retesting is important should local authorities change their radio frequencies or if local authorities have updated recently to a digital-based system rather than an analog system.

Certain environmental or construction changes could also impact your ERRC system and require retesting to ensure these changes haven’t blocked radio signals. There are three main factors that can impact first responder communications: shadowing, attenuation, and diffraction. Shadowing refers to a radio signal becoming reduced due to changes in terrain or the new construction of buildings in your area. Attenuation is when the strength of the signal becomes reduced when passing through a building, and diffraction is when a signal bends around an object and becomes limited in its extent. ERRC testing is crucial to ensure first responder communications remain strong throughout your building despite any changes.

Where can I find first responder wireless solutions?

If you’re looking for first responder wireless services to install a professional emergency responder radio coverage system in your commercial building, look no further than RFeCommunications. RFeCommunications offers ERRC systems and first responder DAS to ensure your commercial building is compliant with local, state, and federal requirements. When you’re proactive about providing solutions for first responder cellular boosters, you show commitment to protecting first responders and those who provide aid to the public. To learn more about how ERRCs work or for more information on first responder wireless solutions, contact RFeCommunications today.