Sending Strong Signals

Over the years, multi-family developers have come to recognize the importance of strong in-building Wi-Fi and cellular data systems to be on par with other critical utilities. It’s a modest exaggeration to say that a powerful signal is nearly as important to building residents and staff as water and electricity. In fact, we are living at the height of the connectivity-conscious era, with remote workers making reliable and stable communications a primary factor in their move-in decision.

But what about situations where a strong signal can mean the literal difference between life and death? In the case of Emergency Responder Radio Coverage Systems (ERRCS), that is exactly the case. These systems, which use a network of antennas called a Distributed Antenna System (DAS), allow first responders to reliably communicate even in challenging conditions created by modern construction materials (steel, reinforced concrete, low-E glass, etc.).

ERRCS was mandated by The National Fire Protection Association in 2007 and is enforced under Section 510 of the California Fire Code and NFPA 1221.  The code is determined by your local Authority Having Jurisdiction, but multi-family developers involved with new projects should assume they are required to have an ERRCS installed by a team of FCC licensed radio testers, design engineers, and integrators.

DAS/ERRCS Explained

A Distributed Antenna System (DAS) consists of a variable number of antennas located throughout a building connected back to an RF source with cabling designed to provide adequate radio signals in areas that may otherwise experience poor coverage.

In response to the World Trade Center disaster in 2001, the National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code (NFPA72) was updated to ensure that wireless coverage in existing buildings, new buildings, and parking structures was drastically improved.

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The code mandates that public safety radio coverage shall be provided throughout a building with 99% floor area radio coverage in Critical Areas and 90% floor area radio coverage in General Building Areas with a minimum signal strength of -95db. Testing is required by an FCC Certified Technician qualified with a General Radiotelephone Operator License (GROL/PG), to certify that all existing buildings conform to this mandate. Buildings and structures that do not pass testing are required to install a DAS/ERRCS system to comply with the Building Department and the local law enforcement agencies.

For newly constructed buildings, or buildings undergoing tenant improvements, a certificate of occupancy won’t be issued until a certified bi-directional amplifier (BDA) and accompanying antenna are installed and tested by an FCC Certified Technician.

When searching for a partner to ensure your project complies with emergency responder code requirements, look for someone with at least a decade experience installing DAS/ERRCS in different types and sizes of multi-family buildings. The right service provider will be able to provide examples of successfully completed projects that match the scale and design demands of your efforts and give you an accurate and reasonable quote to complete the installation.

While we would all rather avoid situations that require emergency services, anticipating and preparing for them will offer your company peace of mind … and potentially save lives.

[Editor’s Note: This is the first part in a 3-part series covering different aspects of emergency, Wi-Fi, and cellular signal strength.]

Founded in 2002 with offices in Orange County, San Diego and San Jose, RedRock Technologies is a leader in low-voltage technology integration. Services include the planning, installation, and management of DAS/ERRCS, Wi-Fi, Data Cabling, Security, AV and Fire Alarm systems.

RedRock has completed more than 8,000 projects throughout California and are the leaders in systems integration and recently ranked as a Top 40 Systems Integrator in the US by SDM Magazine. To learn how RedRock can serve the needs of your next multi-family residential project, contact us today at (949) 900-3460 or visit https://www.itredrock.com/.