Emergency Responder Radio Communication Systems (ERRCS) are designed to ensure that the appropriate First Responder radio systems function inside a building. These systems and requirements are an outgrowth of the percevied radio system deficiencies on 9/11. The specifics of these systems are outlined in two different organizations’ recommendations, which have been interpretated and codified by individual states and locales in this country.

  1. National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), code 72.
  2. International Fire Code (IFC), section 510.

I’ve had a number of developers who chafe at the requirement and believe this is another example of a government requirement that simply adds to their cost structure. They insist developers are being asked to cover the costs of these in-building networks to make up for the existing deficiences inherent in the outside radio network. The so-called Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ), usually the local Fire Marshall, has the final say on how much of the national codes are applicable to his jurisdiction. This can have enormous cost implications on items like the survivability of horizontal cables within the building. So do these developers have a point?

Well, yes to some extent. Certainly many jurisdictions have under funded their radio communications system. These systems compete for taxpayer dollars with a host of other, perceived more-important goods and services. However, fixing these outdoor systems in many circumstances will never fix the signal strength and quality of radio signals inside a building. New building materials and windows that are energy efficient contribute to the inability of radio signals to penetrate inside buildings.  Developers now need to understand that this requirement is now as important (and required) as sprinkler systems and fire alarm panels, and project dollars need to be allocated to such a system.  Without compliance, there will be no Certificate of Occupancy

I have not seen is any municipality that has provided tax-breaks or earmarked dollars to offset this cost, which would certainly make this more palatanble for many developers. At this point it simply falls into the category of another cost – typically from $.50 to $1.25 per square foot – that needs to be budgeted into the project.

Unfortunately, like many of these codes, they can vary substantially by location. There are certainly instances where a site survey will determine that the existing radio network sufficiently penetrates a building and an ERRCS is not required. But for anyone whose projects include an underground parking structure, be prepared to install an ERRCS.