Is Your Building Up To Code?
In 2009, the International Code Council (IFC 510) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA-72) instituted requirements in their fire codes for radio coverage for first responders in buildings. The ICC and NFPA wanted to make sure that emergency first responders—police, firefighters, and EMTs—would be able to communicate inside and outside any building, facility, or structure without losing coverage.
To do this, they created standards requiring buildings to meet specific public safety radio (PSR) and emergency responder radio coverage (ERRC) requirements. Today’s first responders rely on radio communication. In an emergency, where concise communication can mean the difference between life and death, reliable coverage is essential.
To avoid costing your project precious time and money because of a denied certificate of occupancy (CO), you need to ensure your ERRC is up to code during your new construction and recertification inspections.
Large public buildings and sites such as airports, stadiums, schools, college campuses, malls, and hotels need a developed emergency management plan that includes disaster and safety management procedures (greater than 25,000 sq ft). Being sure that security, police officers, firefighters, and other public safety personnel can communicate clearly and efficiently in your building is one of the most vital components of campus security.
Building contractors must ensure adequate emergency responder radio coverage (ERRC) in new structures or on renovation projects. Suppose local fire codes find that ERRC is not acceptable. In that case, contractors are required to install either a simple Bi-Directional Amplifier (BDA) or a complete Public Safety Distributed Antenna System (PSR DAS) to provide coverage to first responders. Not only required for new construction, property owners and building managers are responsible for continuing to show proof that their buildings communications have remained up to code by bringing in a third-party like MCA to retest and recertify their emergency communications systems.
What Is A Public Safety Signal Booster?
Most signal boosters refer to inexpensive and ineffective consumer-grade radio signal boosters or commercial-grade signal-boosting radio repeaters. MCA specializes in turn-key communication solutions for industrial and public safety customers, including Public Safety Distributed Antenna Systems (PSR DAS).
Our PSR DAS solutions feature bi-directional amplifiers, head-end units, ceiling-mounted antennas, custom cabling, and more – all working together to effectively boost and distribute public safety radio signals across your facilities. Unlike those systems we first mentioned, our solutions ensure Emergency Responder radios can communicate effectively throughout your building. They don’t just give your signal reception a minor boost; they are complete systems that significantly enhance radio signal strength, coverage, and capacity over emergency responder communications bands.
A BDA is a device that transmits and receives radio frequency from a local wireless tower or repeater and amplifies that frequency. As a standalone device, they can improve your in-building radio coverage. However, when used as components within a complete PSR DAS solution with an entire network of distributed antennas, they distribute signals more evenly and powerfully throughout a building.
Distributed Antenna Systems for Fire Safety and Code Compliance
BDAs work together within our full DAS solution to rebroadcast the emergency responder communication system signal. An in-building ERRC system ensures that radio frequencies can penetrate into all areas of your building, including areas that are especially difficult for first responders to enter, such as stairwells, elevators, basements, and thick-walled or shielded areas. The distributed network of antennas, cables, splitters, and other devices that form a high-quality DAS solution help cover extensive areas that transmit PSR signals. These re-broadcasted signals allow first responders to use radios in locations within a building that were previously dead zones.
In addition to radio enhancement systems, cellular DAS systems appeared in the commercial tier to improve a Wireless Service Provider’s coverage throughout a customer’s facility. These cellular DAS systems allow organizations to improve coverage for Major Cellular Carriers(Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, US Cellular) throughout their buildings for an improved cell phone user experience and can be engineered and installed to work alongside public safety radio systems to enhance all types of RF coverage throughout any kind of venue.
What Are The ERRC System Requirements?
The ICC (via code IFC-510) and NFPA (via code NFPA-72) require emergency coverage radio systems to be tested annually or when significant structural changes are made to a building to ensure your ERRC system is still up to code.
Not many municipalities took the ICC/NFPA requirements seriously years ago, but that is quickly changing. Now almost every local government regardless of state is required to adhere to these standards.
Municipalities ask building managers and property owners to prove each year that their:
- Acceptance test procedures for their PSR DAS systems are upheld.
- A backup power source can support communication for up to an hour.
What Is IFC-510?
New buildings shall have approved radio coverage for emergency responders within the building based on the existing coverage levels of the public safety communication systems utilized by the jurisdiction, measured at the exterior of the building. This section shall not require improvement of the existing public safety communication systems.
- Where approved by the building official and the fire code official, a wired communication system in accordance with Section 907.2.12.2 shall be permitted to be installed or maintained instead of an approved radio coverage system.
- Where it is determined by the fire code official that the radio coverage system is not needed.
- In facilities where emergency responder radio coverage is required and such systems, components or equipment required could negatively impact normal operations of that facility, the fire code official shall have the authority to accept an automatically activated emergency responder radio coverage system.
What Is NFPA 72?
NFPA 72, is a rather massive set of guidelines and recommendations that were created to help improve building and occupant safety. NFPA-72’s Chapter 24 specifically, guides the application, installation, location, performance, inspection, testing, and maintenance of fire alarm systems, supervising station alarm systems, public emergency alarm reporting systems, fire and carbon monoxide detection and warning equipment, and emergency communications systems (ECS), and their components.
What Is NFPA 1225
As of 2019, NFPA has consolidated NFPA 1221 and NFPA 1061 into a new standard: NFPA 1225. As a result, NFPA 1225 provides guidance and sets the standard for the installation, performance, operation, and maintenance of public emergency service communications systems and facilities.
Why Do ERRC Codes Exist?
If you choose not to comply with codes, you risk hefty fines and fire marshals refusing to answer a building’s emergency call for help. But you need to keep your ERRC system up to code to protect first responders and people in your building.
In the minutes before the fall of the South Tower of the World Trade Center on September 11th, 2001, a police helicopter hovering overhead radioed in the following message: “I don’t think this [the South Tower] has much longer to go. Evacuate all people within the area of the second building!”
Unfortunately, the firefighters and police officers on the ground failed to heed their warnings because their radio systems failed to receive that critical message.
Twenty-one minutes later, the South Tower collapsed.
Beyond any penalties and fines you may receive as a property owner or building manager, the risk of not complying with these codes is too great.
How Can I Ensure That My ERRC System Complies With Code?
Property owners typically need to learn the original installer and manufacturer of their DAS system.
Locating that information can be difficult, however MCA’s DAS-qualified technicians have the appropriate certifications that allow them to certify, expand upon, integrate, monitor, and maintain any emergency communication system regardless of the original equipment manufacturer (OEM).
Keeping up with your annual code is quite simple: a technician will come out to conduct a coverage test, ensure your amplifier and backup system are functioning properly, and provide you with documentation of proof of compliance.
For building managers and owners trying to remain compliant with local fire codes, the most straightforward course of action is to contact a company with experience installing, testing, and maintaining top-tier BDA/DAS systems.
Trust MCA For All Your ERRC Needs
For over 30 years, MCA has provided expertly tailored communications solutions to property developers and builders needing two-way radios, job-site connectivity, and wireless signal enhancement systems. Our team offers top-tier support for every aspect of your business and mission-critical communications projects from start to finish. Our engineers assess your needs, design custom solutions, and install systems that fit your organization’s exact requirements.
Enterprise leaders faced with problems from communication gaps, security challenges, and data threats choose MCA’s certified teams to design, implement, and maximize solutions, from the most trusted and reliable US-based manufacturers. These leaders love the assurance of MCA’s local sales and service teams, being there in the moments that matter throughout the life of the solution.
MCA provides wireless communication, data and security solutions that enhance the safety, security, and efficiency of workplaces across the nation. Customers trust us to provide a portfolio of turn-key systems, products, and services — including two-way radio communications, vehicle uplift, security video and access control systems, BDA/DAS, remote monitoring, GPS tracking, SCADA, dispatch, mass notification, and point-to-point wireless networks
Our more than 65,000 customers span industries such as public safety, commercial, manufacturing, education, healthcare, utilities, and government. In addition to being the largest Motorola partner in the U.S., MCA has strategic partnerships with over 1,000 major manufacturers to offer an extensive portfolio of products and technologies.