One significant difference between a Cellular Distributed Antenna System (DAS) and a Public Safety DAS (aka an Emergency Responder Radio Communication System or ERRCS) is that the former is used every day and the latter is used only in an emergency.

In a multi-tenant apartment building with a Cellular DAS, any equipment malfunction will typically be noticed very quickly because residents won’t be able to make cellular phone calls. With an ERRCS, an equipment malfunction could go undetected because no one is using the system daily.

The lack of daily usage makes ERRCS monitoring that much more important.  All components of the system (both Active and Passive) must be continuously monitored for the system’s continued operation so that if First Responders are dispatched to the building their radios will work.

Relevant NFPA and IFC codes and local AHJs require that Bi-Directional Amplifiers (BDAs) in an ERRCS generate alarms that are fault outputs to a Fire Alarm System (Normal AC power, Loss of normal AC power,  Battery charger failure, Low battery capacity, Donor antenna malfunction, Active RF emitting device malfunction, System component malfunction). However, there typically is no monitoring required for the Malfunction of DAS cables and coverage Antennas.  So, a system could presumably have no head-end generated alarms but have half of its antennas not working appropriately and no one would know.

ERRCS Monitoring and Inspections

AHJs now require annual inspections of an ERRCS. However, various events throughout the year can compromise its function. These include electrical, lighting, and HVAC repairs; general building maintenance; natural disasters; and even vandalism. And so while the head-end monitoring would capture a problem, without the monitoring of cables and antennas a fair part of the ERRCS could remain offline and go undetected.

Many AHJs have recognized this problem and now require so-called “Antenna Monitoring Systems” that will continually verify the uptime and performance of cables and antennas.  Although this adds additional cost to a system, it ensures there is no degradation in reliability for first responder communications. Unfortunately, “bad” things will continue to happen inside buildings and these systems are critical to ensure Fire, Police, and EMS radios will work in an emergency.

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Please contact us today to learn more about IBWS’s ERRCS design and installation capabilities.

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