During emergencies, the importance of our country’s communications systems becomes clear. These communications systems include the wireline and wireless telephone networks, broadcast and cable television, radio, Public Safety Land Mobile Radio, satellite systems and increasingly the Internet. For example, in an emergency, we may dial 911, call our family members to make sure they are safe, and turn on our televisions and radios to get breaking news and important updates.
Since September 11, 2001, and Hurricane Katrina, the Federal Communications Commission has taken important steps to ensure that 911 services and other critical communications remain operational when disasters strike. For example, in response to recommendations of an independent panel reviewing the impact of Hurricane Katrina, the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau worked on several fronts to improve communications during emergencies, including streamlining collection of outage information during times of crisis through the Disaster Information Reporting System, helping ensure that communications workers receive “essential personnel” credentials during emergencies, working with other federal agencies to improve interoperability among first responders, and promoting use of enhanced 911 best practices.
Emergency first responders use portable radios (known as land mobile radios, or LMRs) as a critical communication tool to ensure effective fireground command and control, for personnel accountability, and to improve firefighter safety when operating within buildings during a fire or other emergency. Fire departments equip their interior firefighters with LMRs as an essential tool necessary for firefighters to operate in the hazardous conditions caused by fire. These tools are essential for communication with the incident commander, dispatch center, and other firefighters while carrying out firefighting and rescue duties. Portable LMRs can also be a firefighter’s lifeline when a calling a Mayday, but the user needs the assurance that the message is both sent and received so that immediate rescue of a trapped or injured firefighter can be initiated.
Given the importance of portable LMRs to firefighter safety, it is essential for these LMRs–which operate on the public safety frequency used by the municipality—to operate reliably anywhere within a building at all times. The necessary signal strength is typically available in residential dwelling units but may require an enhancement system in larger commercial use buildings and in high-rise or underground buildings. In these locations, construction features may inhibit or block normal LMR transmission or receiving functions.
In-building emergency radio communication enhancement systems for two-way portable LMRs have been commercially available for many years. There are several different types of systems with varying features and costs that provide a range of design and installation options.
Requirements for ERRCS
The requirements for such systems are typically outlined by an entity called the “Authority Having Jurisdiction” or AHJ. The AHJ is typically the local Fire Marshall and is the first contact point for anyone attempting to acquire information about the local code requirements. After contacting the AHJ, the next step in the process is usually a site survey to provide baseline readings of the signal strength at the property – assuming the property is in some stage of construction. This will allow for a preliminary evaluation of the possible need for an ERRCs so that horizontal and vertical cable paths and/or conduit can be identified and installed. Once the building’s outer skin is up, a second site survey will determine the necessity of the ERRCS and identify areas of the building that require a network of antennas.
Without one or more site surveys it is impossible to determine whether all or only some part of a building actually needs an ERRCS.
Contact our Emergency Responder Radio Communication experts at https://www.in-buildingwireless.com/errcs-2/