Installation of distributed antenna systems (DAS) networks for emergency and public safety responders has been increasing across the country over the past few years—driven by the need for first responders to get in touch with each other and people in buildings should a crisis emerge. In fact, this market is expected to grow at double-digit rates over the next five years.
First responders can include police, fire, and EMS personnel that are frequently called to respond to emergencies inside buildings (and unfortunately may find that the building has poor radio reception).
Because of the need to have a reliable means of communication to send and receive information, emergency DAS systems are potentially necessary systems for all types of buildings and properties, including:
- Office buildings
- Parking structures and stairwells
- Hotels and hospitality venues
- Stadiums and arenas
- Airport, train stations, and other transit centers
What Is the Current Issue?
The current gap for property managers and building owners is that not all structures are set up to provide safety and security measures, enabling first responders to have quick, clear radio communication within any given space. Without a specific DAS system for public safety, dead zones may exist that could prohibit first responders from doing their job. Handheld radios often lose signals in difficult environments, such as:
These specifically-designed DAS system can truly be a lifeline for the first responder (and those in the building needing help), as clear communication allows for navigation and instructions from captains and engineers on-site at the emergency.
DAS for public safety consist of an antenna located on the outside of the building that picks up outdoor signals, a bidirectional amplifier that boosts and strengthens the signal, and a passive distributed antenna system that distributes the signal throughout the building.
Installation Needs for Commercial DAS vs. DAS for Public Safety?
DAS installation for public safety is a bit different than traditional commercially-used distributed antenna systems. In these cases, you have to consider redundancy and how to minimize interference. Trying to utilize a commercially-designed DAS integration can cause issues with network requirements and lead to unnecessary costs and complications. It’s also important that your public safety network is fully accessible by first responders and won’t receive any interference with public or commercial use should an emergency occur. This means, the infrastructure itself should be different and separate, with maintenance and user access strictly controlled, so there is no un-wanted crossover.
What Is the Goal of This Increasing Trend?
The tragedies that took place 9/11 showed a clear need to focus on improving reliable radio communications in large buildings, such as high-rises, public structures, and more, so that all can get and receive the help they need. The goal of DAS for public safety is to extend wireless coverage within structures and enable first responders’ radio and cell phones to work regardless of their location within that building (from a parking deck, to the basement, to a stairwell, or interior conference room).
In 2009, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) fire code NFPA 72: National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code was updated to offer a technically correct in-building radio system into local fire codes. Rules cover the application, installation, location, performance, inspection, testing, and maintenance of fire alarm systems, supervising station alarm systems, public emergency alarm reporting systems, fire warning equipment and emergency communications systems (ECS), and their components.
According to the NFPA, at least 30 states have adopted (or will soon adopt) codes that apply to first responder coverage.
International Fire Code (IFC)
The International Fire Code (IFC) is another governing body providing best practices and standards for buildings and is designed to address the conditions that can be dangerous from fire, explosion, and hazardous materials. The main priority of the IFC is to safeguard public health and safety in any size of community or building. The 2015 updates in section 510 covers updates to radio coverage and standards for fire responders.
DAS Installation for Public Safety Use in the Southwest
At Corporate Technology Solutions, we strive to design and install a solution suited to your specific needs. Our team can design in-building emergency communication systems to ensure that your building is first responder ready, while creating efficient, cost-saving designs.
We have offices in Tempe and Tucson, but can provide DAS installation and design services throughout Arizona. Contact us to get started on improving the emergency response communication throughout your building or property!