Achieving ERCES | Public Safety | Owner’s Guide | ERCES Systems


BDA-DAS Public Safety Systems- Achieving ERCES Public Safety Compliance:

Emergency services personnel such as police, fire, emergency medical, homeland security, and disaster response agencies communicate with wireless public safety systems. But many times the hand-held radios used with these systems do not work properly due to a variety of environmental factors, including the building’s construction materials or sightline to a radio tower.

National, state and local fire codes as well as many state’s building codes now require building owners to provide first responder radio coverage in their facility. If coverage is not present, a supplemental Emergency Response Communication Enhancement System (ERCES) is needed. An ERCES is an enhanced public-safety radio system that allows emergency services personnel to communicate important information back to personnel outside the building to help coordinate the emergency response.

Other names for ERCES include:

  • ERRCS—Emergency Responder Radio Communication System
  • IBERES—In-Building Emergency Responder Radio Enhancement System
  • DAS for Public Safety (DAS = Distributed Antenna System)

To work properly, the ERCES radio signals must penetrate all areas of a building, including spaces that are especially difficult for radio frequency (RF) to penetrate such as stairwells, basements, rooms with low-E glass windows, and thick-walled or shielded areas. In these hard-to-reach areas, a distributed antenna system (DAS) must be installed to allow that communication to work. The components of an ERCES DAS include a bi-directional amplifier (BDA), donor antenna, and in-building antennas.

To determine the need for an ERCES system, professional-grade RF spectrum analyzers are used to measure signal strength throughout the building, following a code-specified grid pattern. Test results are compiled into a report to be submitted to the building owner and the local authority having jurisdiction (AHJ), typically the fire department, for its review. The local AHJ makes the determination of whether the test results indicate the need for an ERCES.

If the AHJ’s review of the ERCES test results determines that there is sufficient coverage, no additional action is needed. If the building fails the radio frequency test, means that the building must be equipped with a DAS with an appropriate battery back-up system. The certificate of occupancy may not be issued if the building fails this test. ERCES DAS designs must be submitted to and approved by the fire department or local building department, which will then issue a construction permit. After the system is installed, the vendor will be required to have the building retested and submit the compiled results to the fire department, which will conduct a final inspection and sign-off.

As every building is different in its layout, structure, and functionality, the cost to test for ERCES signals will vary. For budgeting purposes, plan for testing costs of $250 to $1,500 for buildings of 5,000 to 150,000 square feet. Costs for ERCES DAS design and installation depend on many variables, including the size of the building, how many areas need signal boosting, the number of antennas needed, access to pathways, and cabling infrastructure. For budgeting purposes, plan for $.75 to $2.00 per square foot for an ERCES system, depending on the size of the building. The design and permit package will typically be $1,000 to $1,750.


Achieving ERCES | Public Safety | Owner’s Guide | ERCES Systems


Code Compliance and ERRCS: Ensuring Your Building Meets Public Safety Communication Regulations:

Emergency Responder Radio Communications Systems (ERRCS) are a vital component of public safety communications in buildings and facilities. These systems are designed to ensure that first responders can communicate effectively during emergencies, making them a vital component of any emergency response plan. However, to ensure the safety of occupants and the effectiveness of first responders, it is essential that buildings meet the regulatory requirements related to ERRCS.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and International Fire Code (IFC) are the primary regulatory bodies governing ERRCS. These codes require that all new buildings, as well as existing buildings undergoing significant renovations, be equipped with ERRCS that meet specific standards.

One of the primary requirements related to ERRCS is that these systems must be designed and installed by qualified professionals. ERRCS providers must be familiar with the codes and standards related to these systems and must follow strict guidelines to ensure that systems meet the required performance standards.

Another critical requirement related to ERRCS is that these systems must provide adequate coverage throughout the building. To achieve this, ERRCS must be strategically placed and distributed throughout the building to ensure complete coverage, including in areas such as stairwells and basements, where signals may be weak or non-existent.

Additionally, ERRCS must undergo regular testing and maintenance to ensure that they are functioning correctly and effectively. These systems must be inspected annually to ensure that they meet the applicable codes and standards and are functioning as intended.

Compliance with these codes and standards is critical for ensuring the safety of building occupants and the effectiveness of first responders during emergencies. ERRCS play a vital role in public safety communications, allowing first responders to communicate effectively and coordinate their response efforts.


Achieving ERCES | Public Safety | Owner’s Guide | ERCES Systems


A Building Owners Guide To In-Building Public Safety – Wireless

There are three main codes that building owners must follow to meet the standards for the installation, maintenance and use of emergency services communication systems. They are updated every few years and enforced by respective AHJs across the country.

The first is the International Code Council’s (ICC) International Fire Code (IFC) 2018, Section 510, which explains the latest requirements for the in-building emergency radio systems. IFC is on a three-year code cycle with 2018 being the latest, but IFC-2021 is currently being reviewed and approved.

The second is the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), which has multiple chapters/sections relevant to in-building wireless communication requirements. NFPA 1, section 11 or 101, generally discusses the public safety requirements for two-way radio communication enhancement systems and minimum signal strength needed for fire department communications in new and existing buildings. NFPA 72 covers fire alarm and signaling codes, with chapter 24 specifically covering emergency communication systems. NFPA 1221 Section 9.6 (soon to be NFPA 1225 due to consolidation efforts taking place) addresses the requirements for two-way radio communications enhancement systems, and NFPA 70 covers the national electric code requirements.

Lastly is the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) part 90 rules and certification testing for radio products that are used in defined bands for public safety services.

One of the new standards is Underwriter Laboratories’ (UL) UL2524, which is designed to make two-way emergency radio communication systems safer and more reliable for first responders. It currently covers repeaters, annunciators and battery backups (BBU) but will eventually expand to cover fiber systems and other wireless communication products.

UL2524 will be significant in helping building owners and AHJs easily align on compliance as more original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) become listed and are therefore easy to identify for use in in-building public safety systems. This will ensure the new UL2524-listed first responder systems are certified to be code compliant and meet the stringent and comprehensive testing requirements, as detailed in the UL2524 Standard for Safety for In-building 2-way Emergency Communication Enhancement Systems, Second Edition. This will help streamline the fire marshal approval process for acceptance testing, allowing building owners to more quickly receive their certificate of occupancy.


Achieving ERCES | Public Safety | Owner’s Guide | ERCES Systems


Codes and Regulations Covering ERCES Systems:

Various organizations and codes regulate the requirement for Emergency Responder Communication Enhancement Systems (ERCES). Here are some of the major organizations and codes that require ERCES systems:

  1. National Fire Protection Association (NFPA): NFPA 72 2010 and 2013 and 1221 and 1225 2016, 2019 and 2022, the National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code, requires ERCES systems to meet critical minimum requirements; this code ensures that these critical communications are heard and received by all areas of the building.
  2. International Building Code (IBC), International Fire Code (IFC) and NFPA 1 and 101: These codes determine if a signal survey to measure signal strength and an ERCES BDA are required. You can find these requirements in Section 916 of IBC, 510 of IFC, and 11.10 of NFPA 1
  3. Federal Communications Commission (FCC): The FCC 90 regulates the use of radio frequency spectrum, including the frequency bands used for public safety communications. The FCC requires that ERCES systems meet minimum certain transmission and reception requirements and to be registered on their website.
  4. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA): OSHA requires employers to provide a safe and healthy work environment for employees, including adequate emergency communications. In certain circumstances, this may require the installation of an ERCES system to ensure that emergency responders can communicate effectively during an emergency. OSHA also approves the labs that can test and ensure manufacturers meet UL 2524.

» Contact ULTRA•LYNK Today!