In an emergency, first responders must be able to communicate effectively in order to take action. In order to do this, they depend on radio signals. For this reason, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) requires 99% radio coverage in critical areas of all commercial buildings such as basements, stairwells, and garages, in addition to 90% coverage in general use areas such as offices and conference rooms. Distributed antenna systems (DAS) help ensure that coverage.
Distributed Antenna Systems and Public Safety
Public safety DAS is a built-in wireless radio system that supports and supplies radio signals to first responders for emergency communications. While businesses can use these signals to run daily operations, DAS connections are also essential public safety tools.
A DAS connects first responders to radio signals no matter where they are at the site of an emergency. This uninterrupted connectivity is essential for providing the most rapid and effective first aid services possible—even in the most isolated parts of a building, particularly stairwells and basements.
While many buildings already have DAS in place, updated infrastructure can be integrated into existing building systems. This integration includes adherence to NFPA and International Fire Code (IFC) standards, the default standards for DAS installation across the country. Known for their thoroughness, these standards ensure the reliability of these systems by enforcing waterproofing requirements as well as alarm notifications, battery backup, and pathway survivability.
DAS Building Requirements
Many companies are required by the NFPA to have a Public Safety DAS system installed in their buildings for public safety reasons. In particular, NFPA 72 covers the need for radio signal connectivity across critical areas such as exit stairs, elevator lobbies, and fire command centers, as well as requiring minimum inbound and outbound signal strengths to ensure uninterrupted communication for first responders.
By testing the radio signal strength of existing or anticipated DAS, companies can begin the process of understanding and installing a DAS system that meets their needs in compliance with IFC regulations in their state.
NFPA 1-11.10, NFPA 70 and NFPA 72 also require that a DAS be installed in buildings with determined “dead zones” where radio signals are weak or nonexistent.
Installing and Maintaining a Public Safety DAS
While many buildings already have a DAS in place, regular yearly inspections ensure that company buildings are still meeting authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) requirements. These inspections cover equipment functionality, track current coverage reports, and provide solutions to any potential issues.
Installing a new DAS can include updated software and provide public safety readings, measurements, and data necessary to ensure all NFPA and IFC standards are met. A properly installed and well-maintained DAS can save lives and facilitate first responders’ jobs in the event of an emergency, and are an essential part of any building’s security infrastructure.