Save Money on Emergency Responder Radio Coverage Systems

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Having adequate indoor radio coverage “today”, does not necessarily ensure that you will have adequate coverage “tomorrow”.  Growing trees, new construction and other changes in the local area can gradually or quickly affect the radio coverage in and around your building.  Ensuring a building has adequate indoor radio coverage for Emergency Responders is not an easy objective and will face the same issues Cellular providers have in ensuring reliable coverage inside buildings.  It’s not always a question of “if” you building needs improvement but often a question of “when or where” it needs improvement.

Everyone asks “How do you reduce the cost of complying with Emergency Responder Radio Coverage?”

No. 1 – Include the infrastructure necessary for public safety cabling in the building design.  The cost of a few extra conduits and NEMA 4 boxes in the scale of things may be negligible compared to the cost of retrofitting a building sometime in the future.  Infrastructure must include a 2 Hr rated riser and horizontal pathways meeting Level 1, 2 or 3 survivability.  (With SIGECS – survivability is crucial.)  Plan the space necessary for the equipment and allow for the connections to primary power, building ground and the fire alarm system.

No. 2 – Request indoor coverage testing from a 3rd Party Test Service that specializes in Public Safety Radio Coverage.  Being able to determine if a system is needed in the early stages of construction can be critical in meeting the construction schedule.  Preliminary measurements provide the basis for estimating final radio coverage and provides the information needed by the system designer.  The accuracy of the preliminary measurements will naturally improve as the construction work is completed.  Formal testing is performed after the building is finished to document the final radio coverage.

No. 3 – Make an agreement with a System Supplier for the technical requirements including design and commissioning.  The Emergency Responder Radio Coverage System (ERRCS) is a fairly complex requirement and should be left to radio experts.  Providing the cable pathway and demark locations for power, ground and alarms will reduce the cost from the System Supplier.  (These are things that they, generally, do not perform.)  Push for quality.  The ERRCS is critical for life safety….survivability is a key objective and this can only be achieved trough high quality materials and installation.  Use a 3rd Party Test Service to ensure system performance, to document the final coverage and to expedite acceptance by the Fire Marshall.

Following is a descriptive diagram showing the primary components making up a typical Public Safety system.   ERRCS Primary Components

Public Safety DAS; NFPA 72 and Best Practices

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The enforcement of  Public Safety Indoor Radio Coverage is popping up all over the nation and as a result many of our new clients are asking for help understanding the  regulations and what is involved with correcting problems should their building fail.  I put together a document, which I give to just about everyone that calls.  It provides a listing of all the pertinent sections of NFPA 72 – 2013.

I can’t copy the NFPA but you can access a Free online copy at

The requirements and the type of Public Safety Radio System is a variable from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.  Even the frequency bands used within a jurisdiction are all over the map and, of course,  the odds are, it’s going to be different in the neighboring jurisdiction.   Digital P25 technology may improve inter-operable communications between agencies, but it does very little to change the wide range of frequencies the building owner must address in his system design.  The national Broadband Network (FirstNet) is also looming around the corner and will naturally be added to local requirements as it becomes available.   If you don’t have a 700/800MHz digital signal booster, you probably are going to fork out some more money in the future.

System flexibility and the ability of the cable path to accommodate changes are paramount to long term savings.   Best Practices include:

  • Utilize a professional to get things started.
  • Have good specifications to ensure you are getting  products and services that meet regulations and local requirements.
  • Ensure quality and code compliance through 3rd Party inspection and testing.
  • Plan long term resources and life cycle costs.

RFSignalman provides several template specifications to assist our clients with these objectives and our web-site is a good source of information.  If you don’t find it…….ask.

RFSignalman – “testing to save lives” – it is our focus.


Quality – Public Safety Radio – Is it really important?

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“Quality doesn’t just happen.”

When it breaks – it’s cheaper to get a new one.  This is true for so many things these days from kitchen gadgets to printers and cell phones.  With products becoming cheaper and cheaper to manufacture, the quality standard seems to be based on the time it takes something to fail.  That being said…..wouldn’t you think the quality objective of something that is not supposed to fail…..say something your life depended on……should be very high.

Quality and survivability are extremely important to the First Responder.  When your life depends on it, there is no place for cutting corners or using unreliable parts or equipment.  That’s why Public Safety Radio systems are designed to be 99.9999% reliable (approximately 52 minutes of outage per year).  The Radio is one of the most important tools used by First Responders and is crucial for support and coordinating on-site efforts.  A delay in communications can have serious impacts to the outcome of an emergency situation.  The following link provides an excellent overview of fire communications and how indoor coverage fits into the picture.

The Building Owner is now responsible for Public Safety Radio coverage inside buildings.  Although it may seem financially tempting to skimp on quality when  first hit with a new requirement –  it never pays in the long run.  As a preventive measure, the FCC has just issued new rules for commercial, industrial and Part 90 users of Booster Systems that go into effect March 2014.  These rules are accompanied with stiff fines starting at $100K. and a requirement to register equipment. .  High Quality Systems, Monitoring and Testing are the Best Practices to ensure compliance with CA Fire Code Section 510  and NFPA 72 requirements as well as keep the FCC off your back.


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