Deploying Wireless Carrier Das to Enhance Emergency Responder Radio Coverage
Emergency Responder Radio Coverage Systems (ERRCS) is required to ensure first responders have sufficient radio coverage inside buildings at all times and most importantly, during life threatening events. However, during emergencies it can become extremely difficult for individuals (located inside buildings) to contact first responders, because unfortunately wireless carrier distributed antenna systems (DAS) are not technically required. This assertion is based on the belief that wireless carrier DAS is a luxury, which consequently renders any cellular phone useless during emergencies, as phones may not dial out. Ironically, this does not coincide with basic principles of safety, used to codify fire codes.
ERRCS was first introduced in the 2009 International Building Code, where requirements were established to address the performance of emergency responders’ portable radios within building structures. This was largely due to the inherent implications that large structures may have on radio communication, based on building specs, size or any unique element that absorbs or blocks wireless transmission.
The importance of ERRCS was magnified on September 11th, 2001 — when the World Trade Center (WTC) was attacked by terrorists. Unfortunately, first responders did not have sufficient nor reliable communication within the buildings due to the structure composition (steel, reinforced concrete, low emissivity glass, etc.). Large structures such as skyrises, arenas, convention centers, hospitals, schools, and stadiums — oftentimes utilize low emissivity glass windows, which have been found to diminish radio coverage. The communications affected during this catastrophic event involved radio transmissions from responders inside the WTC buildings, to the incident commander outside and the public safety communications center alike.
Fast forward to 2007 when The National Fire Protection Association passed an ordinance, mandating all buildings to provide radio coverage for first responders. The current code (which can be found in Section 510 of the California Fire Code and NFPA 1221) is directed towards new structures and it is also applicable for existing buildings, however, this will vary between local jurisdictions. Rather than putting the lives of building tenants in jeopardy, organizations can proactively deploy wireless carrier DAS, to ensure individuals are able to connect to first responders at all times (even if there is no network coverage). In many cases, these structures are geographically located in dense metropolitan areas and although that increases the proximity of cell towers, they are useless to individuals located on underground floors — unless the building has Cellular DAS.
As illustrated above, cellular DAS can help first responders ensure the safety of building tenants during emergencies, even though it is subjectively considered an ancillary tool. Click here to contact us and learn more about how DAS Systems can enhance your ERRCS and cellular coverage.