For many building owners, enterprise customers and organizations trying to determine the need for what’s called an Emergency Responder Radio Communication System (ERRCS), the term “AHJ” is usually part of the conversation. Who is this guy and why should I care?

A little background. An ERRCS, also known as a Public Safety Distributed Antenna System (DAS), is typically an in-building, first responder radio network. It functions by picking up the appropriate radio signals from an outdoor antenna and re broadcasting them inside a building. This allows first responder radios to then presumably work inside the building, where they need to, a very important public safety requirement for most of us. This is the funny-page simple explanation.

More background: two organizations have played a predominant role in outlining communication requirements for buildings. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and the International Fire Code (IFC), a part of the International Code Council (ICC). NFPA 72 and IFC Section 510 are the pertinent statutes. The IFC reports that 42 states have adopted their codes.

So back to the AHJ, an acronym for “Authority Having Jurisdiction”. The origin of the term is vague, from what I’ve read (you can Google AHJ to get a smorgasbord of definitions and history). But in regard to ERRCS, it is very specific. Its role is to articulate, interpret and enforce the particular code that has been adopted by his city, town or county. Many local jurisdictions (through their AHJ) began enforcing NFPA 72 and IFC 510 years ago so it is probably the exception rather than the rule that a new building will not require an ERRCS in order to get its Certificate of Occupancy (CO).

There are AHJs that have very well defined, written procedures for ERRCs that cover approved equipment, installation guidelines and test procedures. For example, the Office of Unified Communications (OUC) in Washington, DC has extensively documented its requirements online. . It lists approved equipment, test procedures, required documentation and everything and anything you will need to know as a building owner or system integrator to comply.

There are other AHJs that have little to no documentation about what is required. In fact, for many building owners, general contractors, or system integrators, finding the appropriate AHJ will take a fair amount of effort. Usually it’s the Fire Marshall, so that is always a good place to start. But make no mistake about it: it is the AHJ that will ultimate authority on whether your building does require an ERRCS and what equipment, installation, and test procedures you will need to follow.

As we know in this country, most codes and statutes for buildings are set and enforced locally – not nationally. Understanding the local code is important.

The moral of the story: the AHJ is the key organization you will need to interface with for any ERRCS. Get the name of the organization and find the person responsible for your building. Without their guidance, you will not know what is required.