Key Considerations – In Building Public Safety Systems

Public Safety Fire Communications - Safer Buildings Coalition

Public Safety Fire Communications – Safer Buildings Coalition

What is it?

A Public Safety Communications System is a wireless communications system used by first-responder and emergency services personnel such as police, fire, emergency medical, homeland security, and disaster response agencies to prevent or respond to incidents or situations that pose a threat to people or property.

An In-Building Public Safety Communication Booster System ensures that radio signals can penetrate all areas of buildings, including areas that are especially difficult for RF to penetrate such as stairwells, elevators, basements, and thick-walled or shielded areas.

Key Considerations for Building Owners, Enterprise and related Construction Trades

Know your local Building and Fire Codes and Local Ordinances

These requirements are mandated by the International Code Council Fire Code (IFC) Section 510 as well as the NFPA 72 and NFPA 1221. Local jurisdictions vary. Some adopt these model codes as written, some modify these model codes, and some areas have not yet adopted. Be sure to understand the local code requirements and permitting process during the design and budgeting phase of your project.

Risk of Non-Compliance

For new construction or remodeling, failure to meet code could mean that a Certificate of Occupancy will not be issued. For existing buildings there is the risk of code violations that must be corrected.

Engage the Code Officials and Building and Inspections Departments Early

Build the appropriate timelines into your project plan. Ideally the required infrastructure such as pathways and conduits should be planned and installed before the walls and ceilings are closed up. Waiting until too late can significantly drive up costs.


The cost of an In-Building Public Safety Communication Booster System is born by the building owner nearly 100% of the time. The rare exception is for public mega-venues where third party operators may deploy a public safety system in conjunction with a cellular repeater system.

Engage Professional Assistance

Work with experienced professional services and Integrators who have done recent In-Building Public Safety Communication Booster System work, preferably with references in the target jurisdiction.

How About Cellular Service?

Today, so many calls originating within a building are made from mobile phones and not land lines. This includes calls to 911. This is particularly critical in common areas, stairways, parking garages, and basement areas. If cellular service is poor in any of these areas the 911 call may never be made. In campus environments like Education, Healthcare, or Corporate campuses, text-alert systems are common for crises and emergency management. Without adequate cellular coverage these outbound contacts fail. Cellular repeater systems use the same technology and supply ecosystem as In-Building Public Safety Communication Booster Systems. In most cases there can be significant cost savings realized by designing and installing these systems at the same time, potentially sharing common infrastructure such as pathways (penetrations, conduits, raceways), power, space, cooling, cabling, antennae, and even active components.

Key Considerations for Building and Fire Code Officials (sometimes called AHJs, or Authority Having Jurisdiction)

Publish your Local Standards and Permitting Procedures

Unlike sprinkler system or electrical codes, In-Building Public Safety Communication Booster Systems are relatively new requirements and much of the market and industry is navigating a steep learning curve. Make sure your requriements are clearly documented, and that pre-construction permitting procedures and documentation requirements are clearly defined and published. Otherwise, expect to field many phone calls to answer the same questions over and over again.

Specify Your Testing / Inspection Procedures and Documentation Requirements

Some agencies are staffed such that on-site inspections are feasible. Some jurisdictions prefer that the owner engage a qualified third-party professional services company to test and document system performance and compliance to code. Make your requirements known in advance.

Balance Objectives

Make sure the requirements in your jurisdiction meet the need of ensuring critical communications without imposing unnecessary additional costs. The NFPA and ICC routinely engage experts from both the Fire Professional community as well as from the technical industry to continually adapt model codes that accomplish this balance.

Participate in Industry Forums that Provide Training and Public Information

Groups like the Safer Buildings Coalition provide training, seminars, and other opportunities and context for engaging the In-Building Public Safety Communication Booster System supply ecosystem, and also to get the latest information about new and proposed fire codes as well as new FCC regulations and other requirements.

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MEMBER SPOTLIGHT: Graybar Hosts In-Building Public Safety Seminar

MEMBER SPOTLIGHT: Graybar – In-Building Public Safety Communications Seminar

Safer Buildings Coalition and our Executive Director Alan Perdue, CFO, FM, MIFireE are proud to support Graybar in next week’s seminar in Naperville: DAS/Public Safety Seminar on Friday, April 28. This seminar will be of interest to Public Safety Agencies (Fire, Police, EMT), Building Officials, Architects, Engineers, and Design Professionals. The meeting will be held at Top Golf located at 3211 Odyssey Ct., Naperville. The program will begin at 8:30 am.

The program is on In-Building Public Safety Communications, and will be Chief Alan Perdue, Executive Director-Safer Buildings Coalition. This seminar will be of interest to anyone who is concerned about radios and phones getting out of larger buildings in an emergency, so invite your police agencies.

GOLFThe agenda for this morning class will consist of Code Requirements for Public Safety Radio Communications; General Public Communication vs. Public Safety Communication Systems; Prescriptive Code vs. Performance Based Code; New Code Changes; Basic System Topology/Design; Developing Specifications and System Layout; System Commissioning and Testing Best Practices

This seminar will be of interest to Public Safety Agencies (Fire, Police, EMT), Building Officials, Architects, Engineers, and Design Professionals

Our instructor, Chief Alan Perdue, began his public safety journey as a volunteer firefighter in 1977 and retired in February 2013. Chief Perdue is credentialed as a Chief Fire Officer and Fire Marshal through the Center for Public Safety Excellence Commission for Professional Credentialing.

Chief Perdue currently serves as the Executive Director of the Safer Buildings Coalition, a Commissioner on the Center for Public Safety Excellence’s Commission for Professional Credentialing, a member of the International Accreditation Services Technical Advisory Committee for Fire & Life Safety Departments, a member of the International Code Councils Codes & Standards Council and as an Elected Guilford County, NC Commissioner.

Among many other positions held by Chief Perdue, he served eight years as the International Director representing Fire & Life Safety on the International Association of Fire Chiefs Board of Directors and twelve years as the Governor’s fire service appointee to the North Carolina State Building Code Council.

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