Emergency Responder Radio Coverage System (ERRCS) must be IFC or NFPA Compliant.
A prerequisite for obtaining an occupancy permit for buildings in many jurisdictions nowadays requires public safety and emergency responder coverage (ERRC) that is International Fire Code (IFC) and National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA) compliant. Even if you are aware that your buildings need public safety coverage systems (ERRCS), requirements vary by jurisdiction and understanding how coverage should be tested and how it could be improved upon is complex.
In this article, we will explain the various requirements of the codes and show you how to determine what is needed, including NFPA governing signal boosters.
If you are at the stage that you need a public safety system quote, contact signalbooster.com today and we will gladly assist you.
Understanding Local Jurisdiction Requirements.
First responders to any emergency situation, including a domestic threat, fire, or medical emergency, must be able to use radio communications everywhere in a building in order to deal with the situation properly. Their communication equipment must continue transmitting in areas that are difficult to reach, such as shielded or thick-walled areas, basements, elevators and stairwells. New buildings that are LEED certified have low-E glass. This often causes bad signal coverage for public safety systems as low-E glass causes extensive signal attenuation.
This coverage level for first responders inside building is a requirement and not simply a “nice-to-have”. Just about all counties and cities in USA has endorsed local codes and ordinances that makes it mandatory to have coverage in buildings for first responders. The regulations specify that all buildings must meet minimum mandatory levels of first responder communications before they may be occupied. Building owners or operators are responsible for testing their buildings and installing a system that meets the code requirements if required.
Local jurisdictions won't make up the rules, but use suggestions made by various organizations including the following:
- ICC (International Code Council).
- NFPA (National Fire Protection Agency).
- IBC (International Building Code).
- IFC (International Fire Code).
- FirstNet (First Responder Network Authority).
It is crucial to know local codes as there're no integrated codes enacted at federal level, and every jurisdiction's ordinances are slightly different. Some bigger cities tend to draft internal codes governing first responder communications, but smaller municipalities tend to rather adopt the language used in the NFPA and IFC codes. This means that relevant building location local authorities dictate the codes that must be met.
Be warned that it is not necessarily true that only new constructions should comply with relevant codes and that older buildings are exempt. There have already been cases where the codes have been enforced retroactively. Some cities where this has happened include Schaumburg, IL and Summit County, CO. There're bound to be more that follow suit soon.
Requirements of IFC and NFPA 72.
As has been mentioned above, the IFC and NFPA are the standards most often used and these have been implemented by numerous local authorities. It is critical that these requirements are understood, as any public safety DAS installed in a building has to meet all of these in order to pass inspection.
Below is a short summary of important and common requirements:
- Equipment Enclosures: Both the IFC and NFPA specify that equipment that supports the public safety network must all be mounted in enclosures that are NEMA-4 compliant.
- Wireless Coverage: According to the NFPA, 99% coverage is mandatory in areas that are vitally important. Local fire departments designate these areas. 90% coverage is needed in other areas.
- Battery Backup: All equipment that supports public safety radio systems must be able to operate on a backup battery for 24 hours.
- Signal Strength: Both the IFC and NFPA specify that the minimum signal strength needed for acceptable coverage must be -95 dBm.
- Fire Ratings: Both the room containing public safety electronic equipment and cables connecting this equipment must have a two-hour fire rating.
- Antenna Isolation: According to the NFPA, isolation of antenna should be 15 dB more than the amplifier's gain.
Apart from signal and equipment regulations, coverage testing requirements are also included in the IFC and NFPA. Coverage must normally be tested in a 20 or 40 grid method. This involves splitting every floor of the building into 20 or 40 segments. A public safety radio is then used to test that signals meets minimum uplink and downlink requirements, and that there is connectivity.
Public safety amplification systems are required for most buildings that have underground garages or concrete structures that had been poured. These type of systems are known as Public Safety "Repeaters", "Bi-Directional Amplifiers" (BDAs) or "Distributed Antenna Systems" (DAS). Grid testing identifies the exact areas that the system has to cover.
Public safety systems must pass 3 tests once it has been installed:
- Yearly battery backup and system performance tests.
- Acceptance tests supervised by the authority that has jurisdiction.
- Commissioning tests performed by a building owner.
Building owners must guarantee minimum qualifications for personnel that are used to install the equipment and obtain any permits needed for the equipment that had been installed. In some cases, the installation needs to be done by an OSHA safety certified engineer, while a FCC certified technician must do so in most jurisdictions. The final requirements is often to produce a specific as-built drawing.
Finding Expertise for Public Safety DAS Systems.
Building operators and owners face a huge challenge when trying to determine which public safety DAS solutions will comply with all the requirements. There are also many additional technical questions that have not been addressed in this article. Should a passive (coaxial) or active (fiber) distribution system be installed? Is the best solution a broadband amplifier or a channelized system? For an in-building public safety system, no single solution will be suitable for all scenarios. A reliable solution needs good systems engineering, quality products, customization, and professional installation and maintenance.
Help is fortunately available. Professional systems integrators can help throughout the installing process of public safety systems in buildings. They can help you:
- Understand the local jurisdiction's coverage testing protocols.
- Research the frequencies utilized by public safety systems in area.
- Choose the right public safety coverage system.
- Perform tests to determine if your building needs a public safety DAS.
- Install adequate battery backup capacity.
- Ensure that the correct NEMA enclosures are used.
Congress approved a law in 2012 authorizing the formation of FirstNet, an independent authority. The mission of FirstNet is developing, building, and operating wireless broadband networks specifically for first responders nationwide. This initiative ensures that commercial cellular networks and public safety communications don’t interfere with each other. It calls to construct a single platform serving all jurisdictions, and utilizes modern cellular technologies. The contract to perform the work was awarded to AT&T. It is highly probable that public safety systems will have to contain FirstNet's frequencies.
Public safety systems for buildings are complex and subject to codes to continuously evolve. This however does not relieve building operators or owners from complying with the codes. If selecting and installing a public safety system in your building appears overwhelming, obtain help from an independent, certified systems integrator like SignalBooster.com. We have access to the latest products and more than a decade of experience. Our staff will be able to design the best system for your specific requirements. We offer free estimates for any size buildings, and the team has the experience and expertise to get the work done properly the first time.
We're Here To Help.
SignalBooster.com is an Emergency Responder Radio Coverage (ERRC) Specialist that can help with public safety RF coverage testing - And if needed, installing a public safety signal booster or public safety DAS (distributed antenna system).
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