Emergency Responder Radio Coverage Systems (ERRCS) are critical in ensuring that first responders have reliable communication capabilities within buildings during emergencies. Despite their importance, several myths and misconceptions about ERRCS exist. Here are some common ones:
1. Myth: ERRCS are only necessary in large buildings.

Reality: While larger buildings may have more complex communication needs, ERRCS are essential in buildings of all sizes to ensure that emergency responders can communicate effectively. The need for ERRCS is determined more by building materials and design, which can block or degrade radio signals, rather than just the size of the building. Local fire and building codes vary about what size building needs to be tested for an ERRCS (and if failed, installed). Many local jurisdictions have lowered the threshold from 50 thousand square feet to a much smaller size (a city in California is now requiring all existing buildings over 5 thousand square to be tested). The only commonality is that in all cases single-family residential homes are excluded.

2. Myth: Wi-Fi and cellular signals are sufficient for emergency communication.

Reality: While Wi-Fi and cellular networks provide valuable communication tools, they are not designed to the same standards of reliability and coverage as dedicated ERRCS. ERRCS are specifically designed to ensure uninterrupted communication for first responders, even when other networks might fail due to congestion or power outages. ERRCS utilize private first responder radio frequencies as opposed to the carrier-leased cellular and unlicensed frequencies of Wi-Fi.

3. Myth: Installing ERRCS is the sole responsibility of building owners.

Reality: While building owners are typically responsible for ensuring their buildings comply with local codes and regulations, including the installation of ERRCS, the specifics can vary. In some jurisdictions, public safety agencies may also have roles in testing, certifying, and maintaining these systems to ensure they meet the required standards. Again, local codes vary. It’s important to understand the players and process before embarking on an ERRCS project.

4. Myth: ERRCS are too expensive and not worth the investment.

Reality: While the upfront cost of installing an ERRCS can be significant, the value of ensuring effective communication for emergency responders cannot be overstated. The potential cost of not having such a system in place, in terms of both human life and property damage, can far exceed the initial investment.

This is a tough issue because building owners are often asked to pay amounts that are not insignificant and not budgeted. One could argue that the cost of these systems should be paid (maybe in part) by the local taxpayer.

5. Myth: Once installed, ERRCS do not require maintenance.

Reality: Like any critical infrastructure, ERRCS require regular maintenance and testing to ensure they function correctly, especially as building layouts change or as new technologies are developed. Regular inspections and updates are necessary to maintain their reliability and effectiveness. Most jurisdictions require annual inspections. Again, consult the local code.

6. Myth: ERRCS and commercial cellular boosters are the same.

Reality: While both systems aim to improve signal strength, ERRCS are specifically designed for emergency communication frequencies and standards. Commercial cellular boosters typically enhance cell phone coverage for general use and will not support the specific needs or frequencies used by emergency services. Most jurisdiction we’ve worked with like to keep the cellular and ERRCS DAS separate. We get calls from building owners who confuse ERRCS with a Cellular DAS but they are
distinct systems.

Understanding these myths and realities is crucial for ensuring that buildings are properly equipped to support first responders during emergencies. Proper education and adherence to local codes and regulations can help ensure that ERRCS fulfill their vital role in public safety. IBWS thanks Google and various AI tools in helping to provide content for this Blog. If you need help navigating the world of ERRCS, please don’t hesitate to reach out.