Radio (BDA) Systems: What is an ERRCS?

Posted by ORR Protection on Jan 18, 2021 9:00:00 AM

During the MCFP Virtual Conference series, Dal Brazzell, Sales Manager at ORR Protection Systems, discusses Radio (BDA) Systems. Part 1 of 3.

Video Transcript:

My name is Dal Brazzell with ORR protection systems. We're going to spend a few minutes today talking about an emergency responder radio communication systems. Thank you for your time. And if you have any questions after this presentation, feel free to reach out to us through the links provided so we can get your answers. So the topic of today's presentation really is to dig into emergency responder radio communication systems, specifically what they are, why we need emergency responder radio communication systems, the market drivers that got us to where we are code adoption and enforcement, the things that we have to meet from a performance standpoint within NFPA and the international fire code, the types of wide area, public safety radio systems, and the wide area, they're going to be our outside systems that support the fire department, police department and EMS, the components of those wide area outside systems.

And then the components of the inside are in-building wireless public safety systems. Again, there's many, many names as we'll get into, but the emergency responder radio communication systems, typical scope of work that's going to be required, not only for the installing contractor like, ORR but also the electrical contractor, the roofing contractor, sometimes the general contractor, and then lessons learned that can help streamline the entire process from the engineer to the general contractor, to the subcontractor and even the building owner. So try to cover a lot of different topics.

So emergency responder radios you'll find that most police departments, fire departments and EMS have been covered, have been communicating with handheld walkie-talkie type push to talk radios for the last 30 years or so for a number of reasons. And that's in lieu of obviously cell phones. But they've also been able to talk inside the building through two way wired emergency communication systems like firefighters funds.

There's a big push to get away from wired communications and firefighters phones. And obviously not to rely on the cell phone signals within to get into buildings because of the mission critical nature of emergency responder communication systems and the type of critical incidents that they're going to respond to, whether or not it's a safety issue, a health issue with an employee or a tenant in the building, obviously a fire issue or a shooter on campus or a shooter in the building. So by going to a handheld system, a handheld radio system, the fire department, and the other emergency responders, they've, they've built a trust and that system and the reason there's a trust in the system is because the towers in the network are hardened. So the, the, what we call repeaters or the actual tower sites that broadcast the county-wide radio frequencies, those are typically going to have battery backup for 24 hours.

They're hardened from attack, like most are bulletproof they're hardened from weather damage and weather emergencies. And in addition to that, they're actually hard wired back to the countywide or citywide 911 emergency operation centers, radios 800 megahertz, 700 megahertz UHF VHF bands are going to broadcast over a much wider area or a larger area than a typical cell phone coverage would be. So, and remote rural areas, you're going to get a lot more coverage through a radio system than you would with a cell phone system. The radios themselves are going to be more ruggedized for use in a police car, you know, and the firetruck on the SCBA equipment that the fire department is carrying the most important things. Here are the ability of the system to communicate to an entire team of firefighters or the fire department and the police department and the EMS, and not only to communicate to that entire team or multiple agencies, but to do that delay free and reliably.

So put yourself into a situation where you're, you know, working for the police department and you're broadcasting over your radio, a don't shoot message. And if the don't shoot message, doesn't come through completely instead of, you know, the, the person on the other end hearing, don't shoot, they hear shoot, obviously that's a major problem or if the message don't shoot, doesn't come through at all, that that could be a problem. If there's a firefighter down or a policemen down, they need to get that message across that's it's key in those critical situations. And they've got trust in these systems over a typical cellular system. So the big driver,

Why we are, where we are with these systems really started after the 911 attacks. So post 911, there were a lot of studies on things that we could do as an emergency response community to improve our response, improve the safety of tenants within a building. And one of the big things that came out of the NIST report I think in 2006, about the world trade center attack was that they recommended in addition to a lot of other things, the installation of what has come to be called emergency responder, radio communication systems, and NIST actually developed two teams. There's a team called the CTL, which is the communications technology laboratory. And under the CTL, there's a group called the public safety communications research division of nest. So they published their report and the report obviously got into the hands of emergency response AHJs across the country. And there was almost immediate adoption and some key cities to go ahead and, and adopt and enforce the installation of emergency responder radio communication systems within the buildings even before it was adopted in NFPA or the international building codes.

So obviously that occurred in the mid two thousands pretty quickly there was adoption, obviously by the AHJs and then later by IVC IFC and NFPA. But as you can imagine, when there's a recommendation for the technology and the technology doesn't exist, the initial technologies that were available from the components of the systems, weren't really built to meet the requirements of a life safety system in terms of survivability of the system and reliability of the system. So early the product probably left a lot to be desired. So it took a while for the product development to catch up with the demands and requirements of the local AHJs police departments and fire departments. So from a code adoption standpoint, we really saw the systems first show up, and NFPA 72 in the 2007 version of the code. And it was a very small reference but basically in the code, there was a reference of what they call it at the time to way in building radio communications enhancement systems.

And there's also another reference in the same code of in-building emergency radio communication systems. So there wasn't really a standardization of the name and in that code, it said that those systems are permitted to be optionally installed, serviced, and monitored by the fire alarm system. But it did not permit the system to take the place of other subsystems that were already required by code, like two-way wired communication systems, similar to a firefighter's phone system. And then from 2007 to 2010, there was actually some adoption in the IBC in the international fire code prior to the updates and the 2010 version of NFPA 72. But we started to really see widespread adoption in a lot of cities in the 2010 version of 72. So here, they kind of adopted what NFPA currently calls these systems, which is a two way radio communications enhancement system.

And that that term has really stuck with NFPA from 2010 until today. And within that code, there are several references. So the first thing is it said it's they covered the performance requirements and in those early performance requirements they required 99% average of the building and critical areas. So elevator lobbies, stairwells fire command centers, sprinkler riser rooms anywhere where the fire department is going to typically respond in an emergency situation. So they, you know, mechanical rooms, elevator equipment rooms, things like that. So 99% coverage in those areas, in addition to 90% coverage throughout general spaces in the building. So everywhere else they also outlined some installation requirements and survivability requirements survivability, frankly, in terms of the ability of the system to function while the building is burning theoretically, or the sprinkler systems are going off.

So there were some early requirements for NEMA rated enclosure so that the system could function. If the sprinkler head was going off in the same room with the, with the head end equipment and survivability of the circuits and pathways, and the early version of the code reference to NF circuits and pathway survivability levels two or three. So this is two hour rated protection for the circuit. And level three is two hour rate protection for the circuit in a sprinkled environment. So that, that showed up. But really at this time, this was only an optional system still, that could be used in lieu of firefighters phones. And the way the code was written is these types of systems could be used instead of firefighters phones with AHJ approval. But really, you know, most jurisdictions were still enforcing the use of firefighters phones.

And obviously keep in mind that the 2010 version of 72, wasn't really referenced in the international building and international fire fire codes that are enforced until several years later. So then in 2012 in the international fire code, the IFC and section five 10, it started to show up here, and obviously they have some different terminology than NFPA. So they're, they're calling these systems emergency responder radio coverage systems. And this is what we really have adopted today because this is what's in the enforceable codes at the state and local levels. So in section five, 10, it said in 2012, that all new buildings and existing building shall have approved coverage of 90% across the entire floor space. And again, normally that was going to be used in existing buildings to replace firefighters phone systems. If a firefighter's phone system had failed or their fire alarm panel was being upgraded, and it didn't make sense to upgrade the firefighters phone system, but in your new buildings, this is all new buildings, regardless of the height of the building.

So not just high rise applications, there's a lot of misunderstanding that these systems are really only to be installed instead of firefighters phones and high rises that the international fire code said high-rise applications and other facilities. So that again, in 2013, the addition of NFPA 72, we kind of moved away from the preference for firefighters phones, with an option to go to emergency responders, radio communication systems to going the other way where the preference was for the emergency responder radio communication systems instead of firefighters phones. So the code changed a little here, and it said that if you wanted to use firefighters phones in lieu of an ERRCS system, that requires approval by the AHJ. Additionally, they actually backed off of some of the survivability requirements for the circuits and pathway. So where prior circuits pathways required level two or level three, they added the option to do a pathway survivability level one in the code.

And that's primarily because the coaxial cables that are used for the systems there is no two-hour rated, or there was not a two hour rated circuit integrity, coaxial cable, and obviously fiber optic cables. There are sometimes used in the systems aren't two hour rated either because they'll melt. So it was extremely difficult to meet that pathway level two or three. So they did add the option to do path a pathway survivability level one, as long as you met level two for the riser where that was, where that was possible. And then they added the requirement for the actual BDA or the bi-directional amplifier, that's the signal booster or the, the head end of the system that had to be mounted within a two hour rated protected space. When we moved from 2013, 72 to 2016, 72 they moved all of the design installation and installation or inspection testing, and maintenance requirements to NFPA 1221 and 1221 is the code for emergency communication systems outside of not just radio, but, but many types of communication systems.

Topics: Featured Article, Featured Blog, MCFP

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