Why ERRCS Inspections Are So Important For Building Owners

April 9 2024

Why ERRCS Inspections Are So Important For Building Owners

Emergencies breed chaos. An antidote? Reliable, trusted communication. An emergency responder radio communication system (ERRCS) is one such tool paramount to facilitating two-way communication and expediting aid in a crisis.

If your building were on fire and your cell service was spotty, you’d certainly want a reliable way to communicate and coordinate with the fire department so that they could act swiftly and decisively to protect the people inside. 

Building owners and managers must be keenly aware of these safety measures and work with a team that ensures their systems are functional and compliant. 

Today, we’ll cover what emergency responder radio communication systems are, why compliance is critical, and how to find a partner you can trust for ongoing inspection and maintenance. 

What’s An ERRCS?

An ERRCS is an in-building wireless amplification system that receives external radio signals and retransmits them inside a building or other structure, to aid in rescue and recovery efforts from first responders like firefighters, police officers, paramedics, and other disaster response agencies who rely on stable communication tools. 

These systems operate on specific frequencies reserved for public safety use and are designed to function seamlessly across the whole building, even in isolated areas like stairwells and basements. An ERCCS can even cut through materials that typically weaken communication signals, like concrete, steel, and low-emissivity glass.

How Do ERRCS Work?

An ERRCS is professionally installed in a building and operates via an antenna and coaxial cable network. The antenna receives and transmits radio frequencies via the established public safety network and amplifies that signal throughout the building to maintain constant communication in a crisis. 

Installing and maintaining an ERRCS is vital for ongoing public safety and keeping your building up to code. 

Why Ongoing Compliance Matters For Building Owners

As you can see, an ERRCS is critical for crisis management. But regularly updating and testing your systems is also paramount for remaining compliant with ever-evolving building regulations and local laws. 

Many states and jurisdictions mandate that ERRCS systems pass annual testing and inspections so that all system components are up to code and radio interference is minimized.

The three codes that business owners must follow include: 

  • National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) - Chapter 1221
  • International Fire Code (IFC) - Section 510
  • Federal Communications Commission (FCC) - Part 90

These codes are updated every few years and enforced by local Authority Having Jurisdictions (AHJ).

Keep in mind that since there’s no unified federal rule; building owners need to stay up to date on the laws governing their area and partner with certified inspection companies that can help them stay compliant.

Failure to comply could result in fines and hinder your ability to obtain your Certificate of Occupancy (CO), halting your entire operation. 

A Step-by-Step Guide To ERRCS Inspections 

What can you expect to happen in an ERRCS testing inspection? 

At a high-level, ERRCS annual inspections provide a holistic view of your system to ensure it’s functioning properly. Providers will look for any hardware, coverage, or interference issues that could impact usability. 

Your technician should visit each antenna location within your building, analyze the power and signal levels, coverage patterns, and any physical damage, and test your coverage and radio frequency signal. 

At Impact Fire, our inspections look a little like this:

  • Test each piece of equipment (antenna, radio, equipment alarms, etc.) for usability and functionality. We look for things like waterproofing, lightning protection, and pathway survivability. 
  • Run a comprehensive diagnostic on your coverage (the area where you’d need to communicate) and capacity (the number of calls the system can support). We ensure the results comply with your specific AHJ rules. 
  • Verify that your backup power is fully functional and meets code requirements.
  • Validate and test your Project 25 (P25) technology (digital two-way radios).
  • Determine if you have the best solution for your current building or situation. We identify any gaps in your approach and recommend personalized solutions to keep your building (and your people) as safe as possible. 

Since these systems are complex, an annual tune-up ensures that your system isn’t failing in the critical areas that allow it to function.

3 Common Problems Detected During Inspections (And How To Solve Them)

An ERRCS is a varied network with several moving parts and pieces, all of which could give building owners trouble at some point. 

But there are a few culprits we find most often during inspections:

1. Weak Coverage

An ERRCS is meant to provide extensive communication coverage even in the most remote spots in your building. However, it’s quite common to detect pockets of poor radio signal strength where the coverage doesn’t meet regulations. Depending on the root cause, several fixes can be considered— reworking antenna placement, optimizing transmitter power levels, mitigating interference via shields or filters, and adding additional infrastructure like amplifiers. 

2. Antenna Issues

Antennas are necessary for transmitting and receiving radio frequency signals. Inspectors often discover antennas that are damaged, improperly installed, or have polarization issues. Sometimes, fixing the issue is as simple as changing the antenna alignment, and other times, it may result in replacement. 

3. Lack of Backup Power

If you’re in a bind, you want backup, especially in your ERRCS. All of these systems must have backup power sources like batteries or generators to ensure they keep running in a power outage or other emergency situations. During an annual visit, an ERRCS inspector may find low backup power capacity, battery deterioration, or a faulty generator. If that’s the case, they may recommend battery replacement or generator maintenance.

Partner With A Pro For ERRCS Inspections 

Emergencies strike when we least expect them. But just because they happen unexpectedly doesn’t mean that you can’t prepare to weather them effectively. 

Conducting regular ERRCS testing and inspections isn’t just good business—it helps keep the people in your buildings safe. Building owners should partner with a trusted professional to ensure ongoing compliance and safety of their ERRCS. 

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