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Safer Buildings with Public Safety Signal Enhancement Systems

Jun 25, 2020

Safer Buildings with Public Safety Signal Enhancement Systems

In any type of crisis such as a natural disaster, public disorder, mass shooting, terrorist activity or any other, first responders need proper communication to handle the developing issue effectively. Proper and reliable communication helps to save lives and property while ensuring all the right rescue points in need of urgent help or aid are prioritized. 

At the height of any crisis, it is proper communication that makes all the difference. That is where a public safety communication solution comes in.

First response communication system.

When first responders want to help with a developing crisis, whether its disaster response units, emergency health workers, police, homeland security, firefighters among others, a reliable communication system is required. Dependable public safety signals are vital, if lives and properties are to be saved.

Public safety systems have always been a revelation since the 1930s. In 1928, the Galvin Manufacturing Corporation was founded in Chicago, Illinois and two years later in 1930 the company created one of the most famous brands in the world today wherever wireless communication is mentioned.

By connecting the term "Motor" and motion sound "ola", the company founder Paul V. Galvin created a brand known as "Motorola", or simply a moving sound. As a result, in November of the same year (1930), the Motorola first response public safety communication system was unveiled to municipalities and law enforcement departments such as the Illinois Highway Police, Evanston City Police and Cook County Police.

In 1936, a police cruiser public safety system receiver was also launched by Galvin Manufacturing Corporation under the Motorola brand, a uniquely one-way radio system capable of receiving law enforcement communications. With time, first responders, from the police to fire departments had picked up the new way of communicating and getting organized for the purpose of offering critical response to those who needed it.

Today, it is highly critical for public safety signals to penetrate manmade and natural impediments into buildings and other constructions. RF penetration is highly important in in-building communication if first responders are to communicate better. However, this doesn't always happen; RF is usually blocked and incapable of penetrating into buildings or getting through shielded sections, stairwells, thick walls, basements, elevators, stairwells, among others.

Public safety frequency bands.

The Federal Communication Commission (FCC) had allocated UHF and VHF frequency bands operating between portable receivers mounted on cars and base stations. From the beginning, first responders from medical response, fire departments to police departments had been working on the analog systems within the UHF/VHF spectrum, particularly on the 500 MHz, 400 MHz, 220 MHz, 150 MHz and 45 MHz range.

Essentially a voice-based infrastructure, the analog system has since changed extensively into a digital system with an extended frequency band spectrum, such as the 700 MHz / 800 MHz for public safety communications.

Communication safety and resilience.

With so many challenges, better technology and highly organized first response frameworks, a highly improved wireless broadband system is required to allow first responders to take action against developing challenges. Uninterrupted communication is required for collecting, sharing, collating, filtering and recording all manner of data from all around.

A synchronized response is needed, which means the transmissions across agencies must also be secure. Public safety systems once optimized ensure communication takes place whenever it is needed in any situation. Enhanced public safety framework ensures the communication is encrypted so that sensitive data doesn't fall into wrong hands during wireless transmission.

The public safety signal enhancement system works more like the cell phone signal system in optimizing the network for first responders. Apart from the means of relaying and getting back the signal to the different frequency spectrums, antennas and bi-directional signal repeaters are required. These are expertly connected strategically all over a building ensuring a highly improved communication is transmitted to first responder radios from the receiving radio system.

Impenetrability of diverse materials.

Just like cell phone signal boosters, public safety signal enhancement systems are needed to help boost the wireless reception to penetrate through different types of almost impenetrable building materials. Wireless reception has always had problems penetrating manmade materials. This is especially true with long lasting building materials such as steel columns in buildings, thick concrete walls, cladding materials. Other factors include high frequencies that don't penetrate well like the way low frequencies penetrate, or the location of a receiver inside a building.

Today, every first responder out there must be able to work efficiently with voice communication while transmitting required data, geographical details and telemetry readings. In most circumstances, first responders work in emergency conditions and their response cannot be delayed, affected or dropped because it means injury, damage or loss of life or property (at times both). Every single public safety communication system must work reliably and capably at any given moment.

Public safety signal communication systems requisites.

Obviously, importance of wireless communications for buildings cannot be underestimated. As such, model codes have been developed across the board and once complied with assure quality, reliability and to some extent uniformity in public safety signal enhancements. ICC (International Code Council) and NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) have been mandated with the creation of codes for this exercise, which has resulted in diverse codes, such as:

  • IBC (International Building Code).
  • IFC (International Fire Code).
  • NEC (National Electrical Code).
  • NFC (National Fire Code).

Counties and metropolises across America have largely subscribed to these codes or complied with at least some of them. Most don't come up with their own regulations but derive from the mentioned codes, including other organizations such as FirstNet (First Responder Network Authority).

The process of coming up with public safety frameworks of communication for buildings is progressive. ICC and NFPA have been at it trying to arrive at nationally acceptable model codes. This ensures that the quality of personnel and equipment can be widely standardized. Even so, single unifying Federal rules are absent with jurisdictions adopting varied ordinances as they deem fit or as necessary.

Large metropolitans have however been coming up with their own regulations and codes on the installation of public safety communication with smaller counties and municipalities largely implementing NFPA and ICC codes. To get the right codes for your building, it means the specific geography of the building as well as the local authority determine the codes to use.

Most in-building codes by ICC and NFPA have been largely for fire management but the codes now cover other critical areas such as emergency health requirements, police response and other areas of public safety. While the two bodies complement each other they are quite different, especially on the specific details of the codes.

States or Counties have laid or are laying the foundation for local codes and regulations that require buildings to be occupied only if the public safety communication system is working. While the requirements are diverse, they include a specified signal strength threshold. They encompass penalties for non-compliance with expected signal strength on a certain floor level. They designate when requirements can be waived. They include provisions that must be there for reliability such as water and cable safeguards as well as power backup, maintenance and standards monitoring, detailed public safety signal band range and testing processes and requirements, among others.

A good example is New York City where the Building Code of 2014 has a requirement for all high-rise constructions being built. Essentially, large buildings above 75 feet must install ARCS (Auxiliary Radio Communication Systems) wherever they may in all the boroughs.

ARCS are a two-way communication system that wirelessly transmits and receives radio frequencies in a residential or commercial building mostly for fire departments. It is worth noting that most jurisdictions expect codes to be observed in new buildings. However, other areas are enforcing them retroactively as well, such as Illinois' Schaumburg and Colorado Summit County with more expected to require the same in the coming months and years.

Financial obligation for the public safety enhancement system for buildings.

In any locality where the authorities require a public communication safety system to be installed, it is the owner of the building who has to cater for it. Wireless carriers have been unwilling to pay for public safety systems of communication in buildings, particularly because they don't have the infrastructure for it, nor resources for such expensive endeavors.

Also, the carriers would have to be responsible for all dangers associated with the design and construction errors of a building, including all the costs associated with constant recertification as expected, including offering equipment maintenance and monitoring. There's also the fear that regulations and codes can change at any moment, which could mean more financial burden to bear.

NFPA public safety requirements for buildings.

  • Wireless coverage must be 99 percent in all sections of a building the fire department in your locality has deemed of critical importance, including a 90 percent wireless coverage at least in other sections.
  • All public safety communication related equipment must have enclosures that comply with NEMA-4.
  • There must be a minimum signal strength of not less than -95dBm throughout.
  • Public safety communication system equipment must work throughout and the supporting equipment must have a battery backup to ensure it can work for 24 hours using that backup.
  • 15 dB antenna isolation more than the repeater's gain while the cables used for connection purposes must have a 2-hour fire rating, including the section with the public safety equipment.
  • There has to be a signal test to a certain connectivity using public safety radio system and ensure uplink/downlink requirements are met. The testing process has to be either 20-grid or 40-grid.
  • For underground garages and areas built by pouring concrete, there has to be public safety signal enhancement system. Through the mentioned grid testing, the right repeater system will be determined.

Installed public safety signal enhancement system has to be approved by three tests:

  1. Personal (building owner's) commissioned tests.
  2. AHJ (Authority Having Jurisdiction) supervised tests.
  3. Tests for the battery backup and yearly system performance tests

Public safety signal system installation.

Installation of a public safety communication system isn't as easy and clear-cut as other systems out there. Even coming up with the public safety solution that meets every single requirement can be hectic.

Considering the knotty technical information that comes with the system and its installation, it can be really hard to make sense of the entire process. You will need to know the amplifier to use, whether a broadband or channeled one, coaxial distribution or fiber distribution systems, among other technical details. Bearing in mind the size of the building and other factors a single solution that meets all in-building public safety signal enhancement needs isn't available yet.

For a working, reliable and effective system, an expert will have to carry out tests, come up with efficient customization, the perfect choice for your kind of building while offering proper installation and maintenance. You will also require certified and licensed experts to install the public safety signal enhancement solution, considering the individual(s) will have to:

  • Ascertain the public safety system frequencies within your vicinity.
  • Stick to, comprehend and make use of reception testing guidelines within your jurisdiction.
  • Carry out critical first steps to ascertain whether a public safety signal enhancement system is needed in your building.
  • Select the proper public safety solution that meets your building needs.
  • Guarantee that the required NEMA housing enclosures are being used.

FirstNet interoperable framework for daily and rapid public safety responses.

The communication challenges faced by first responder in the terrorist attack of 9/11 and subsequent crises reinforced the fact that a network dedicated to first responders only must be developed. On 22nd, February 2012 FirstNet was created with the signing into law of the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act.

With the signing, a megahertz spectrum of 20 was put aside for the exercise, including sufficient resources for the entire process. The mandate of FirstNet from the beginning has always been the development, building and operation of a wireless broadband system for nationwide use dedicated to first response only.

With the entity, modern wireless technologies would be used in the creation of a platform that is singularly interoperable in virtually all jurisdictions within United States. This would ensure all public safety related connections and communications are clear, safe and effective without interfering with the range of commercial cellular frameworks already in place.

ATT won the lucrative contract to bring the project into fruition. As a result, the State Plans deployment by FirstNet has already been accepted, delivered to and deployed by all governors in United States since 2017. FirstNet has been deployed nationally and works faster apart from being fully interoperable. Launched nationwide in 2018, it currently meets all the public safety requirements while being improved to meet future needs as well as.


Unlike other wireless signal enhancement systems, public safety solutions are quite complex and highly affected by so many factors such as codes that change all the time. However, as a building owner, you still have to comply with everything and ensure the installation process for public safety communication systems is successful and as required by ordinances and codes.

Even so, the task of installation can be overwhelming due to the technical requirements and realities involved. With lots of experience in public safety signal enhancement system installation, our experts can help you get customized solutions for your unique requirements.

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Or request public safety signal enhancement system installation to get started immediately.

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  • Amazing! I’ve found another helpful instruction article here at Now that there are options for having a certified installer do residential installations, I’m not worried about whether I can do it. At the same time, I feel more comfortable if I decide to take the DIY approach.

    Jason Worley on
  • So many things can go wrong when a first responder answers a call and I know that not being able to call for help or guidance should not happen now that there are public safety systems out there. I wonder what it’s going to take to get them installed and whether many people know they even exist?

    Doreen Knox on
  • History has always fascinated me and I never knew the story behind Motorola until I read this article. I’ve always wondered what first responders do if they can’t get a strong radio signal, especially when they’re working in a dangerous situation and things are disrupting the signals. Public safety signal enhancement systems seem like a necessity in every public building.

    Leslie Anne on
  • Good to see is still pushing the importance of public safety signal boosters. Read this article or any of the other helpful ones on how vital it is for first responders to be able to get a strong and reliable signal when they go into action at high-rises or other buildings where the materials might weaken (or even block signals).

    Bernie R. on

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