How do new codes affect you?
“At Teleco, we recommend including a BDA system in all new development budgets as retrofitting the building will be very costly after construction”
Reliable wireless communication is essential to first responders when reacting to an emergency inside any structure. Lack of strong cellular and land mobile radio signal equals weak connectivity when it’s needed most. Firefighters and police officers require the ability to communicate effectively. In the absence of communication, they inadvertently risk the lives of the public, including their own.
To ensure such, NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) and IFC (International Fire Code) have established the framework for regulations nationwide dealing with required in-building safety communications coverage. Below, we cover some of these codes:
NFPA Fire Code Changes: BDA system Required in all Buildings by 2022
The National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) made changes in 2016 to fire codes for buildings and building owners. Developers and contractors need to know how this affects their properties and projects. By 2022, a two-way radio communication enhancement/ signal booster system will be required in all buildings to obtain or keep a certificate of occupancy if they do not meet required signal strength coverage. Installing a BDA system is not only essential for Public Safety Communications but mandatory.
INTERNATIONAL FIRE CODE (IFC): CHAPTER 11, “CONSTRUCTION REQUIREMENTS FOR EXISTING BUILDINGS.”
The requirements for in-building emergency radio communication enhancement systems in existing buildings were added to this Chapter in Section 1103.2, clarifying the intent that this was to be mandated, retroactive requirements, unless the fire official waived the requirement based on a determination that the enhanced communication system was not needed.
There have been further modifications to IFC Section 510 in both the 2015 and 2018 editions to address technical issues that arose as more systems were being installed in both new and existing buildings. Other changes were made to embrace new technology and better clarify the intent and understanding of the code for the design, installation, testing, and commissioning of these systems. Additionally, the inspection and maintenance requirements necessary to ensure system reliability were also incorporated in the 2018 IFC.
DOES THE CODE CHANGE AFFECT MY BUILDING?
If your building has “dead zones” for public safety radio signal, then installing a BDA system is required. The systems are so important that they require ongoing monitoring and annual testing. The new code will require buildings to be verified as in compliance by 2022, so time is of the essence. This applies to many verticals including:
• Office buildings
• Parking structures and storage unit facilities
• Hotels and hospitality venues
• Malls and retail centers
• Stadiums and arenas
• Airports, train stations, and other transit centers
HOW DO THE NEW REQUIREMENTS AFFECT MY BUILDING NOW?
At TELECO, we generally recommended to budget for the need to add a BDA system to all new construction and development because retrofitting your building later will be costly. Though you are required to comply with the code change by 2022, a BDA system means the safety of your residents, employees, and for public safety individuals, so the installation of the system should not wait. While meeting the code requirements now could slightly increase construction costs, expenses will be significantly lower than retrofit installations.
Building owners should not aim for minimum compliance, but rather to provide a safe environment for everyone in and around your building.
A reliable public safety communications system meets all the following requirements:
• It’s on a different spectrum than your commercial wireless and is strictly for the use of first responders.
• Its signal covers the entire building. This includes at least 99% coverage of critical areas such as fire pump rooms, exit stairs, exit passageways and elevator lobbies and in some jurisdictions actually inside the elevator shaft.
• It has a backup power source such as a 12- to 24-hour battery backup unit that keeps the system operational if the building’s power is out.
• It has a monitoring system that alerts you to a number of code-required system malfunctions.
By working with a qualified integrator like TELECO to install a public safety communications system in your building, you can help first responders receive crucial support in the most difficult circumstances.
GETTING A CERTIFICATE OF OCCUPANCY
Certificates of occupancy that have already been issued for commercial buildings may not be affected by the code change until 2022. Some apartment buildings will also not be affected potentially until 2025. However, a new Certificate of Occupancy will not be issued until the new fire code requirements are met.
TESTING YOUR BUILDING TO DETERMINE IF IT NEEDS A BDA SYSTEM
To determine whether your building needs a BDA system, the code requires that the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) in your area make the judgment.
At TELECO, our goal is to be your trusted partner for testing, design, installation and maintenance in new construction or retrofit projects while keeping costs within budget. We’ve created designs and performed installations that meet the code and are AHJ approved for both new and retrofit installations.
HOW A BDA SYSTEM CAN BE GOOD FOR BUSINESS
A BDA system can be an asset to your building, protecting you from liabilities and increasing a sense of security and innovation that is alluring to potential occupants. Many property developers are investing in BDA and cellular DAS systems for the convenience of their occupants and as a selling point. Not only does installing the DAS for public safety connectivity make the building a safer place should an emergency occur, it makes the building more reliable for future tenants (and even in future sales)—benefitting business owners financially and competitively in the commercial property market.
WHY TELECO PUBLIC SAFETY DAS?
TELECO’s FirstNet™ compatible and scalable systems are trusted by the professionals that depend on them when responding to an emergency. Our team of Public Safety DAS engineers will design, install and maintain a system that complies with the first responder radio coverage requirements.
At TELECO, we are registered with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). We work closely with the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) and fire professionals to provide an approved system that meets their requirements. We test a building with industry-calibrated equipment to gain an understanding of the signal strength and we target only areas needing enhancement to keep costs to a minimum. We use manufacturer-trained, certified installation and commissioning technicians to design both Public Safety and Cellular DAS systems. We use tools such as AutoCAD and iBwave. Additionally, we serve as the building owner’s representative to validate systems as a third-party inspector/ project manager.