An Emergency Responder Radio Communications System (ERRCS), also known as a Public Safety or First Responder DAS (Distributed Antenna System), has been mandated by many Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) for new buildings around the country.
The municipal jurisdiction’s code requirements are defined by the International Code Council (ICC) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). IFC Section-510 and NFPA 1221 provides the public safety DAS system requirements.
Various AHJ’s are recommending that all passive DAS networks be equipped with a remote monitoring system that detects faults in the passive network of RF coaxial cables, components, and antennas deep into a building. Historically, only the active components (BDA’s and power supplies) were monitored.
Without real-time passive DAS monitoring and alarming, a Public Safety DAS may not be ready for life safety radio traffic. When the Public Safety DAS is commissioned an acceptance grid test is conducted. If the public safety DAS RF coverage passes in a brand-new building, a certificate of occupancy or CO will be granted by the AHJ. From the date of commissioning, it is typical for the AHJ to conduct annual testing of the DAS. Therein lies the problem for first responders that rely on the Public Safety DAS during emergency incidents. It can be a year or more between a system’s proof of performance testing.
The probability of damage to RF coaxial transmission lines or components, disconnected antennas, and the like are high over the course of a year. This is due to building maintenance and enhancements including, plumbing, HVAC repair, security systems, and computer network cabling work. Something as simple as disconnecting an antenna and forgetting to re-connect it to DAS transmission line will compromise DAS integrity and impede proper radio performance.