New Mandates Help First Responders - and Everyone Else
It is coming up on two decades since the horrific events of 9/11, and the impact of those events is still affecting how we prepare for, and respond to, emergencies. One devastating aspect of those events was the fact that more than 300 firefighters, and many others, lost their lives – at least in part – due to a failure of first responders’ radio communications. While the reasons for this failure are complex, regulators across the country – led by the NFPA – took a lesson from it and initiated legislation, legal mandates, and updates to building and fire codes that are all designed to prevent these devastating events from happening again.
Here’s one recent example – the Florida legislature recently passed Florida Statute 633.202. This law places new requirements on two-way radio communication systems used by public safety organizations, including fire and police departments. The requirements are designed to help make sure that fire and police radios will work nearly everywhere inside commercial and residential high-rise buildings, particularly in places where radio coverage has typically been limited, such as basement areas, parking structures, stairwells, and building mechanical and control rooms. A specific provision of the law requires the installation and protection of distributed antenna systems (DAS) and bi-directional amplification systems (BDAs) to ensure radio coverage. New commercial buildings require compliance now, and there are firm deadlines for compliance in existing commercial buildings by 1/1/2022, and in existing high-rise residential buildings by 1/1/2025.
While this example is specific to Florida, other places, including Boston, have similar requirements in place. Many more jurisdictions are considering them, so this requirement is expected to spread further across the country – and that would be a good thing. In truth, whether or not it is required, sensible building managers are realizing that a BDA system can be an asset to their building, protecting owners from liabilities and increasing a sense of security and innovation that is attractive to potential occupants. In a general sense, it would improve both safety and security nationwide if every facility would assess the performance of local emergency radio systems within their building, and implement improvements if needed. Buildings would be safer for everyone, including firefighters, police officers, and emergency medical personnel – not to mention everyone else in the building.
An important part of the new NFPA mandate is surge protection for BDA systems, with associated penalties if systems are not compliant. It makes perfect sense that if a BDA system is required, then it should also be protected to ensure it will work when needed. Without surge protection, a damaged system puts first responders and building occupants at elevated risk from every kind of emergency. BDAs can also be integrated in fire alarm systems, and the antennas could be a conduit for power surges that can lead to even more damage within those systems.
Fortunately, DITEK already offers the perfect surge protection solution to protect BDA and distributed antenna systems, including both power supply protectors in several styles and surge protection for coaxial antenna cabling. These coaxial antenna protectors are particularly important for external antennas that are exposed to lightning and other electrical disturbances. They are also widely used in the fire alarm industry for protecting cellular alarm communicators, and for preventing accidental power surges from coming back into the alarm panel.
Because it is important to protect all possible electrical system entry points form power surges, DITEK has a full selection of cost-effective protectors for incoming utility power, network connections, and control circuit wiring.
If mandates apply to your area, DITEK is ready to help you protect your BDA and DAS systems today. If mandates don’t apply, you can still take action now to check emergency radio performance in your buildings. Contact your local public safety authorities for guidance and assessment, and consider adding a BDA system if radio performance is poor. Contact DITEK to protect your systems with tailored surge protection, and then make sure your occupants and visitors know that you have taken action to keep everyone safe.