What You Need To Know About DAS, Building Codes, and Emergency Responder Radio Coverage System (ERRCS)

To obtain a prerequisite for an occupancy permit, there are numerous jurisdictions that require NFP or IFC-compliant public safety and emergency responder coverage (ERRC) even as a building owner, general contractor, or a construction project manager. Your building may require a certain variation of a public safety coverage solution (ERRCS) but comprehending the attributes of how coverage is tested and how it may be improved is complex because it changes drastically from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

To help guide you in choosing the correct integrator for testing and possibly installing a public safety DAS or BDA system, understanding precisely what you require and the differentiation in code requirements continue reading this article for further information. 

Public Safety Coverages That Your Local Jurisdiction Requires

Depending on what state you are located in, national, state, and local fire codes require all new buildings to provide sufficient indoor radio coverage for first responders set by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), your state and the local jurisdictions. Codes and local ordinances making in-building coverage mandatory have been enacted in approximately every city and county in the U.S.A.

Communication must be maintained by first responders during an emergency situation throughout a building or piece of property. It is an absolute necessity that their communication devices continually transmit even in hard-to-reach areas such as basements, stairwells, elevators, and shielded or thick-walled areas. A situation where their radios seize to work cannot happen whether they are responding to a medical emergency, a fire, or a domestic threat. 

First responders need this level of in-building coverage and it is a requirement that you cannot pass by. Each building is mandated to meet a particular level of first responder communication reliability in order to receive a certificate for occupancy in which the building owner/operator is required to test their building and if need be install a system that is up to code.

Suggested ordinances written by these organizations that influence your local jurisdiction and coding requirements are:

  • National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA)
  • International Code Council (ICC)
  • International Fire Code (IFC)
  • International Building Code (IBC)
  • First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet)

Every jurisdiction has different regulations due to there being no consolidated set of rules at the federal level. For this reason, make sure you are able to understand your local codes! 

To govern public safety communications a few larger cities have created their own codes but many smaller communities and cities do not draft their own codes, instead, IFC and NFPA speech is endorsed. Overall, what dictates the codes your building must meet is your relevant local authority, and the location of your building. 

Further Information: New construction and older buildings alike must comply with these codes – having an older building does not necessarily mean it is grandfathered in.

Quick Overview: NFPA 72 and IFC Requirements

The most commonly used standards by local authorities are NFPA and IFC. Your building including all installed public safety DAS must meet all required standards to pass inspection. It is extremely vital that you understand these requirements. 

Most Important/Common Requirements

Antenna Isolation: Antenna isolation must be 15 dB higher than the gain of the amplifier NFPA states.

Battery Backup: Any equipment that supports the public safety radio system must function for up to 24 hours on a backup battery.

Concrete Structures & Underground Garages: A Public Safety “Distributed Antenna System” (DAS) also referred to as a Public Safety “Bi-Directional Amplifiers” (BDAs) or Public Safety “Repeaters” is a required amplification system. The public safety system must pass 3 types of tests which include: acceptance tests under the observation of the authority in your jurisdiction (AHJ) , annual system performance/battery backup tests, and commissioning tests performed by the building owner. The installation must be done by an FCC-certified technician in most jurisdictions and in other cases, an OSHA safety certified engineer will have to complete the installation.

Coverage Testing: Typically, coverage is tested according to a “20 grid” or “40 grid” process in which each individual floor of a building is divided into 20 or 40 segments. A public safety radio tests each segment to verify that there is connectivity throughout the building and that the signal will meet the minimum downlink/uplink requirements.

Equipment Enclosures: All equipment that supports the public safety network must be housed in a NEMA-4 compliant enclosure specified by the NFPA and IFC.

Fire Ratings: A two-hour fire rating must be met when cables are connecting public safety electronic equipment.

Minimum Signal Strength: A minimum signal strength of -95 dBm is required for sufficient coverage stated by the NFPA and IFC.

Wireless Coverage: Designated areas established by your local fire department must have at least 99% coverage which is extremely important according to the NFPA.

Hiring Public Safety DAS Expertise

Knowing how to meet all these public safety requirements may be stressful and challenging for any building owners and operators! You most likely have many questions about the best solution for you and we can answer your detailed questions and concerns. Choosing the right choice for a required solution involves high-quality products, customization, premium systems engineering and of course proper installation and maintenance as well! Luckily, we can assist you with this whole process with our systems integrator for the installation of a public safety system in your building which includes…

  • Analyzing the utilized public safety frequencies in your area.
  • Comprehending your local jurisdiction’s coverage testing protocols.
  • Executing introductory tests to see if your building needs a public safety DAS.
  • Selecting the right public safety coverage system for your building.
  • Installing sufficient battery backups.
  • Guaranteeing that you are using the right NEMA enclosures for your public safety networks.

The Future of Public Safety: FirstNet

“The FirstNet mission is to deploy, operate, maintain, and improve the first high-speed, nationwide wireless broadband network dedicated to public safety. This reliable, highly secure, interoperable, and innovative public safety communications platform will bring 21st-century tools to public safety agencies and first responders, allowing them to get more information quickly and helping them to make faster and better decisions.” – FirstNet

Created in 2012, Congress passed a law allowing the authorization of FirstNet. Though, still in initial stages, it is most likely that once this system is established public safety systems will be required to include FirstNet frequencies.

RFeCommunications Gets the Job Done Right

Public safety systems in buildings are complex and seem to be ever-changing due to evolving codes that are mandatory to keep up with. Installing a public safety system may be stressful and time-consuming but it does not have to be with our independent systems integrator that can do the job for you! We have a customized solution for you brought to you by the latest technology and the best expertise stemming from over 10 years of experience.

Contact our Public Safety DAS Team today and receive a free quote for buildings of any size!