Public safety: Page 2 of 5

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Local ordinances and codes
A number of jurisdictions have enacted or are considering enactment of local ordinances and codes which require a requisite level of public safety communications reliability in building as a condition for occupancy. The specifics of these ordinances and codes vary, but most include:

  • A minimum signal strength limit;
  • Application of the limit over a specified percentage of each floor;
  • A specific level of reliability (power backup, water protection, cable protection);
  • A specified frequency band or bands for public safety coverage;
  • Testing requirements and procedures; Ongoing Monitoring and Maintenance Standards;
  • Provisions for penalties; and
  • Provisions for waivers of the requirements.

As an example, as of December 31, 2014, the New York City Building Code requires, in Sections 403.4.4 and 907.2.13.2, that an in-building auxiliary radio communication (ARC) system be installed and maintained in all newly‑constructed high-rise buildings. An ARC system is a wireless two-way building communication system for fire department use only that receives and transmits fire department portable radio frequencies within the building. An ARC system typically consists of a transceiver (base station) connected to a building-wide antenna system, with a radio console in the building lobby. Section 917.1.2 of the New York City Building Code and Section FC 511 of the New York City Fire Code together require that ARC systems be installed, acceptance tested, operated and maintained in accordance with the fire code and the rules of the fire department.

The fire department proposes to adopt a new rule to establish requirements for the design, installation, operation and maintenance of ARC systems, including the testing procedures necessary to confirm that the ARC system is providing adequate radio coverage in the building in all areas accessible for firefighting operations. The proposed rule seeks to ensure that ARC systems achieve their intended purpose and, once installed, are continuously maintained in good working order.

The proposed rule, 3 RCNY § 511-01, sets forth standards, requirements and procedures for installation, acceptance testing, daily inspection, annual certification and five-year recertification of ARC systems. It requires that the testing of ARC systems be supervised by a person holding a fire department license, known as a Certificate of Fitness, who knows the New York City Building Code, Fire Code and Fire Department rule standards that apply to ARC systems. The proposed rule reflects the Fire Code requirement that this person hold a General Radiotelephone Operator License issued by the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC). (Source – www.cityofnewyork.us)

Who pays for it?
In-building public safety communication systems are typically the responsibility of the building owner or equivalent.

While cellular DAS have often been financed by wireless carriers or third-party operators like Council Associate Partner Crown Castle, Extenet or American Tower, they have typically not been willing to fund or operate in-building public safety communication systems. There are several reasons for this, predominant among those that public safety systems are simply not part of their network infrastructure to provide their service.

Additionally, there is a perception of taking on costs, risks and liability associated with design error, performance, ongoing monitoring and maintenance, and periodic re-certification.

Another perceived risk is the potential for ongoing changes to codes and ordinances, which could create unknown future responsibilities or costs.

That said, with the proliferation of codes and ordinances at the local and county level, these systems are becoming analogous to mandatory sprinkler systems – just part of the plumbing and part of doing business.

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