Most building owners I know view the requirement for an Emergency Responder Radio Communication System (ERRCS) as another government-mandated item that adds additional costs to a new development project (or in Florida, to existing properties also). “Why,” they ask, “should we be spending our money to fix a deficiency in the town’s radio system?”
An ERRCS, unlike a Cellular Distributed Antenna System (DAS), provides services only in the event of an emergency. Guests or tenants in a building have no idea whether there is an ERRCS or not. These people, however, probably expect that First Responders would be able to communicate with each other if they showed up at the building during an emergency (active shooter, fire e.g.) Only those of us in the ERRCS business know that without an in-building system, oftentimes this is not possible.
Contrast ERRCS with a Cellular DAS. These systems, when installed, are used continuously to deliver cellular services. If they malfunction and users can’t make calls, property management is usually alerted quickly. An ERRCS can go offline and other than alerting at the Fire Alarm panel, no people in the property would know. Although not a code requirement, most building owners know that they need to provide cellular services to their guests and residents: if that requires installing a Cellular DAS, they will do that.
According to a recent Safer Buildings Coalition (SBC) report, this antipathy by owners on ERRCS costs and requirements has been playing out in Florida for the last three years. Each year, proponents from the property development and builders sector have sought to introduce legislation to scale back ERRCS rules and regulations. The SBC trumpeted its efforts (with a variety of other organizations like the Florida Fire Marshals) to push back on these changes and to get more stringent language into the Final Bill (HB 1575).
You can read the details that were negotiated by both sides on SBC’s website. But the general concept is playing out across all states: what’s the appropriate level of regulation and requirement that balances ERRCS costs with improved public safety? Moreover, is there a funding mechanism that would help owners defray costs so they’d be more amenable to installing these systems.
One potential solution would be to have the local government pay or subsidize it – which essentially means us taxpayers. We already pay to fund the radio network that exists in our town or county. Our taxes pay for the radio infrastructure, the radios, the 911 center and everything and anything related to public safety communications. Why not include ERRCS in this funding? This would benefit all parties (perhaps not us taxpayers). But taxpayers could be asked to consider this: are you willing to fund in-building radio systems for the properties in your city/county so that in the event of an emergency the First Responder radios work in the building?
This eliminates the problem of the typical government mandated requirement that they pronounce but refuse to fund. This also puts the question of more or less stringent requirements onto the taxpayer (or at least his representative). What level of requirement is the taxpayer willing to fund? We don’t expect the average citizen to get into the weeds of whether things like ERRCS antenna branches should be monitored, but certainly groups like SBC could work with legislators (like they did in Florida) to educate folks on the pros and cons (and costs) of various features.
It doesn’t help the business of ERRCS when the state, county or city passes a set of more stringent requirements that unduly burden property owners. There needs to be a balance between appropriate requirements and costs. We believe public funding could help strike that balance.
If you’re looking for help navigating the ERRCS process, please reach out to us.