An Emergency Responder Radio Communications System (ERRCS), also known as a Public Safety or First Responder DAS (Distributed Antenna System), has become a mandated in-building requirement for many municipalities around the country. This network essentially re-transmits Fire or Police radio frequencies from outside a building, where the signal is presumably stronger, into the building, where it usually is weaker or non-existent.

The world has changed dramatically since 9/11. Smartphones are ubiquitous and users expect them to work everywhere. Without adequate cellular coverage inside a building, 911 calls cannot be made. So in-building cellular systems are now being touted as the 4th utility – you need it just as you’d need electricity or water. But in some sense there’s no point to being able to make 911 calls if the First Responder Radios don’t work in the building, because that is how they will communicate with each other and to command staff. So add ERRCS to the list of utilities that owners should begin to install with each new building…and it’s only a matter of time until existing buildings are required to be retrofitted to comply.

These ERRCS systems are an outgrowth of IFC (International Fire Code) Section 510 and NFPA 72 (National Fire Protection Agency) codes, but the codes are short on specifics. In the United States, the codes punt to the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ), the local Fire Marshall or City employee tasked with interpreting the codes and determining actual equipment and operational requirments. Most AHJs don’t have the resources to effectively communicate what they require…the integrator or owner must typically meet in person with the AHJ to determine specifics.

I’ve found one notable exception – Washington D.C.’s Office of Unified Communication. This organization has done a fantastic job of outlining on their website the process, requirements and test procedures required to implement an ERRCS in the District of Columbia.  Any owner or customer looking to get educated should peruse this site and documents.  You will need to determine how this jives with the actual requirements for the building in your area.

If you’ve found other organizations that have also documented ERRCS requirements please drop us an email so we can disseminate that information to interested parties.