Both building owners and real estate developers have many hurdles to jump before buildings can be finally approved for occupancy and use. The major concern in large buildings is public safety. Safety of public is vitally important. To that end, occupants must have capability to communicate with first responders should an emergency arise. Furthermore, first responders must also be able to communicate with their teams outside just as they need to communicate with occupants.
NFPA stands for National Fire Protection Association. IFC stands for International Fire Code. In order to receive a Certificate of Occupancy, both the NFPA and IFC require that newly constructed buildings 50,000 ft.² or 10,000 ft.² below grade have a minimum signal strength of 95 dBm in critical areas, such as stairwells, elevators, and so on.
Unless this code is met, it could well mean that no Certificate of Occupancy will be issued until such time as the code violation has been corrected. That is why it is imperative that both general contractors and building owners become familiar with these requirements. If not, it can become both costly and time-consuming installing a Public Safety system once the construction of a building has been completed.
What Are Public Safety Signal Boosters?
Public safety frequencies include 700 MHz, 800 MHz, and 900 MHz. A Public Safety Signal Booster is capable of enhancing all these frequencies. Thus, it improves the efficiency of first responder communications. This is particularly true where buildings have weak signal strength in critical areas. Public Safety Signal Boosters are typically available in multiple-band, multiple-directional capacities, accommodating cell phone signals as well as all types of public safety signals.
Compliance Codes for Public Safety Communications.
There are many codes in existence today because local authorities typically adopt their own rules and regulations. This leads to much confusion because each state, and sometimes each city, is legally able to apply different fire safety standards and adopt or amend certain parts of codes. Both local and state governments are currently looking for ways to standardize these codes. Today, we have three organizations regulating public safety compliance by setting a national standard. See below for the names of the organizations, sub-organizations, and the standards set.
NFPA (National Fire Protection Agency).
The NFPA leads the way in defining electrical, fire, and other safety hazards. Founded in 1896, the NFPA has more than 300 codes and standards, and more than 200 of these are backed by the American National Standards Institute.
The NFPA's top five codes are as follows.
- NFPA 72: National Fire Alarm & Signalling Code.
This code provides modern benchmarks for the installation, performance, and maintenance of emergency communications, fire detection systems, and mass notification systems. Stipulated within this code is 99% cellular coverage in critical areas of all buildings, consisting of a minimum signal of -95 dB and battery power backup capable of lasting a minimum of 24 hours.
- NFPA 70: National Electric Code (NEC).
Although not law, this code is considered the standard of electrical requirements in the United States. NFPA 70 endorses guidelines for the design of safe electrical wiring and installations across all States.
- NFPA 70e: Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace.
This code establishes warnings and safety requirements to assist both employees and companies with safety-related work practices, maintenance, and requirements. It is designed to avoid workplace injuries due to electrocution and shock.
- NFPA 13: Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems.
This code covers automatic fire sprinkler systems by determining industry specification for design, installation, and component options.
- NFPA 701: Standard System for the Identification of the Hazards of Materials for Emergency Response.
This code provides testing methods for determining the flame retardancy and/or flammability of textiles such as window shades, curtains, and various fabrics used in architectural structures.
ICC (International Code Council).
The ICC was established in 1994 and covers international codes ranging from zoning, building, residential, fire, and energy conservation. The ICC codes are updated every three years and are accepted right across the globe. The latest set of ICC codes were set in 2015.
See below for the two most-used codes in the United States.
- IFC (International Fire Code).
The IFC safeguards public health and safety in all structures, buildings, and premises, and determines up-to-date fire safety and conditions. IFC codes are currently used in 42 states, including New York City, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the District of Columbia.
- IBC (International Building Code).
Building design and installation codes are created by the IBC to protect public welfare and encourage innovative and smart technologies. IBC codes are used in all 50 states, and this includes Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands, New York City, Northern Marianas Islands, Guam, and Washington DC.
FirstNet (First Responder Network Authority).
FirstNet is an independent authority within the NTIA (National Telecommunications and Information Administration). It was authorized by Congress in 2012. FirstNet’s mission is to use the 700 MHz radio frequency spectrum to develop, operate, and maintain the country’s first high-speed network solely for public safety.
The NPSBN (Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network) is the first unified public safety network in the United States to serve first responders such as firefighters, police, US Marshals, and so on. This also includes emergency services such as ambulance, paramedics, technicians, and other public safety workers.
By having both building and fire safety under one nationwide umbrella, a modern standard is set for thousands of public safety workers and organizations at local, state, and federal levels.
Because FirstNet has been so widely accepted, it has become the first organization to pave the way for a standard of regulations. Recently, AT&T Wireless was chosen by FirstNet to develop and manage the nation’s first public safety broadband network, dedicated solely to first responders.
Today, it is widely accepted that reliable cellular coverage has become a necessity, not just an option. New guidelines now require a baseline for signal strength and adequate cellular coverage. They also require dedicated frequency band and reliable equipment for public safety coverage and protection.
Why Public Safety Signal Boosters Are So Important.
They are very important because just a few seconds of delay in communication can prevent a life-altering incident from occurring. That is why in places where there are high levels of foot traffic, like places of business, as well as sensitive locations, updated fire and public safety codes have been implemented to satisfy safety concerns.
How to Choose a Public Safety Signal Booster.
Note that there are two types of public safety signal boosters, so once you work out your needs you will then be able to determine which of these boosters would work best in your situation. The FCC refers to these public safety signal boosters as Part 90 Signal Boosters, and they are classified into two groups - Class A and Class B Signal Boosters.
Class A Signal Booster.
Class A signal boosters have been created to transfer on one or more specific channels. Because DAS and other higher-powered boosters have a higher power and a narrower signal filter, they often fit into this classification. And, because of their higher power, Class A signal boosters can handle a larger coverage area.
Class B Signal Booster.
Because of power limitations, Class B signal boosters are typically limited to under 500,000 square feet coverage. However, they are generally half the cost of Class A boosters. Prior to operation, Class B signal boosters must be registered with the FCC. Of course, there’s more to choosing the right public safety signal booster than simply choosing between Class A and Class B.
Building owners and signal booster installers should consider the following points.
- The Booster You Choose Must Meet Local Guidelines.
Prior to deciding on the public safety signal booster for your facility, you must check the guidelines your AHJ (Authority Having Jurisdiction) abide by. Keep in mind that the AHJ is not one organization or group. It depends on who has jurisdiction in that area, the location of the building, and the type of building. For example, an apartment building and a hospital would have different AHJ. If you're in doubt, simply check with your local government to ensure you meet the proper requirements and that the required inspections to certify your building are carried out.
- Coverage Area.
In order to choose the right booster for your requirements, you need to determine how much space requires signal amplification. This will depend on the type of building and on AHJ. It may be that only dead spaces in the building, such as stairwells, require amplification, and not the entire building.
- Your Booster Should Be FirstNet Compliant.
We're now aware that FirstNet is fast becoming the governing regulatory body for both first responders and their equipment. To this end, you should choose a booster that is FirstNet compliant, because this will ensure your booster is compliant for future regulations and building codes.
Consider the FirstNet complaint Part B public safety signal booster, the SureCall Guardian 3 QR, today. Contact us for installation quote by professional certified public safety signal booster installers.