Windy City Wire!

The need for supporting Public Safety ERRCS Systems for commercial residential buildings is in hot demand for CSS. Yesterday we installed and commissioned two systems in our local communities for Monmouth County, New Jersey.


The needs and requirements vary, but the demand for First Responder support is high. Cell Signal Solutions successfully commissioned to all local AHJ code requirements with two FiPlex Systems yesterday. Fiplex makes a great product. In these applications, we added armored cable. Shout out to Windy City Wire!


Title: Armored Cable with Public Safety Systems?


Bi-Directional Amplifiers (BDAs) play a crucial role in extending wireless coverage and enhancing communication systems in commercial and residential buildings. To meet the specific requirements set forth by Local Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJs) in certain applications, the use of armored cable becomes imperative.

Local Authorities Having Jurisdiction are responsible for establishing and enforcing regulations to guarantee the safety of buildings and occupants. In some jurisdictions, specific requirements are in place for public safety BDAs, especially those concerning fire safety and communication infrastructure. Armored cables are designed to meet or exceed these stringent regulations, making them an ideal choice for such applications. By using armored cables, building owners and project managers ensure their BDA installations comply with local requirements, reducing potential roadblocks during the approval process.

  1. Resilience during Natural Disasters

The United States is susceptible to various natural disasters, including hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, and wildfires. During these emergencies, communication systems must remain operational to coordinate emergency responses effectively. Armored cables offer exceptional durability and resistance to physical damage, providing a reliable communication pathway even in the face of extreme weather conditions. By choosing armored cables for public safety BDAs, communities can enhance their preparedness and response capabilities during natural disasters.

  1. Protection against Vandalism and Tampering

In urban areas, public safety BDAs may be installed in publicly accessible locations, increasing the risk of vandalism and tampering. Armored cables act as a protective shield, preventing unauthorized access to the communication infrastructure. This added layer of security ensures that the BDA system remains functional, preventing potential communication breakdowns caused by malicious acts.

  1. Long-Term Cost Savings

Public safety BDAs are a long-term investment in the security and well-being of communities. Utilizing armored cables reduces maintenance costs and minimizes the need for repairs and replacements over time. The cables’ robust construction and resistance to environmental factors contribute to their extended lifespan, providing cost savings for building owners and municipalities.

  1. Enhancing First Responder Communication

During emergencies, seamless communication between first responders is vital for coordinating rescue efforts and safeguarding lives. Armored cables contribute to the reliability and resilience of communication systems, ensuring that first responders have access to critical information when responding to incidents. By choosing armored cables for public safety BDAs, authorities can optimize emergency response procedures, ultimately improving overall public safety outcomes.


In the United States, public safety is a paramount concern, and Bi-Directional Amplifiers play a pivotal role in enhancing communication systems in commercial and residential buildings. To meet the specific requirements set forth by Local Authorities Having Jurisdiction in certain applications, the use of armored cable is essential. Compliance with local regulations, resilience during natural disasters, protection against vandalism, long-term cost savings, and enhanced first responder communication are some of the compelling reasons why armored cables are indispensable in public safety BDA projects. By prioritizing the implementation of armored cable-equipped BDAs, communities can bolster their preparedness and response capabilities, creating safer environments for all residents and visitors.

Page Contents

A Quick Emergency Responder Radio Coverage System Overview

The two-way Emergency Responder Radio Antenna System (ERRAS) works by distributing the available outside radio signal over a system of small interior antennas within the building. The interior antennas disperse the radio signal throughout the building to provide distributed coverage throughout. ERR may sufficiently work outside of your building, but the signal can degrade once indoors. This happens because common building materials such as Low-E glass, metal and concrete can block or degrade the wireless signal. This leads to poor quality wireless service inside buildings which can hinder communication of first responders and emergency personnel with another. This problem is especially prevalent in large buildings that are segmented into multiple rooms.

The first step for general contractors, electrical contractors, and building owners is understanding local code requirements to ensure your building complies and passes the necessary AHJ inspections in issuing a Certificate of Occupancy.

Cabling Infrastructure, Commissioning, Inspection, and Certificate of Occupancy Basics

  • The ERRAS system may be as simple a system for managing emergency response radio coverage as Bi-Directional Amplifier with a few antennas joined by coaxial cabling. ERRAS installations typically require ½” coaxial cable to the interior and exterior donor antennas.
  • For buildings over 250,000-square-feet, a fiber optic backbone may need to be installed to properly distribute the signal to fiber optic remote amplifiers.
  • Post-deployment grid testing with supporting documentation may be required by the AHJ for a Certificate of Occupancy to be issued.
  • Building owners must have the ERRAS system inspected on an annual basis or if significant renovations are made to the building.

Public Safety DAS Requirements

  • National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) – 99% signal coverage required in all “critical areas” of the facility and 90% coverage for general areas, including common areas, stairwells, basements, storage areas, and parking garages.
  • Both the NFPA 72 ( IFC state you will need a minimum of -95 dB (decibel) signal strength throughout the coverage area.

ERRAS Testing Facts

  • The pre-deployment and post-deployment grid testing require a Spectrum Analyzer to identify weak frequencies or dead zones within each floor of your building.
  • Each floor in your building is divided into “20-grid” or “40-grid” depending on local code requirements. Two signal failures per floor are typically permitted, though this can vary by building type and local enforcement of fire codes.
  • You will most likely need a ERRAS system if your facility has any of the following products and features:
    • sub-grade levels
    • parking garages (case by case basis)
    • LEED high-efficiency glass

Keeping Up to Code

The NFPA & IFC work with local municipalities to certify that requirements are in place that will result in reliable radio communication for emergency responders using UHF, VHF, 700 Mhz/800Mhz frequencies. There are three (3) primary codes that relate to Public Safety and are often adopted by the local jurisdictions:

NFPA 72: National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code In addition to fire alarms, the code includes requirements for mass notification systems used for weather emergencies, terrorist events, and biological, chemical and nuclear emergencies, among other threats. Critical Areas. Critical areas, such as the fire command center(s), the fire pump room(s), exit stairs, exit passageways, elevator lobbies, standpipe cabinets, sprinkler sectional valve locations, and other areas deemed critical by the authority having jurisdiction, shall be provided with 99 percent floor area radio coverage. Amplification Components. Buildings and structures that cannot support the required level of radio coverage shall be equipped with a radiating cable system or a distributed antenna system (DAS) with FCC-certified signal boosters, or both, or with a system that is otherwise approved, in order to achieve the required adequate radio coverage.

5.2.4* System Radio Frequencies. The public safety radio enhancement system shall be capable of transmitting all public safety radio frequencies assigned to the jurisdiction and be capable of using any modulation technology.

Download NFPA 72 – Chapter 24

NFPA 1221 – Standard for the Installation, Maintenance, and Use of Emergency Services Communications Systems Contains procedural and physical criteria for the installation, performance, operation, and maintenance of public emergency services communications systems and facilities, including in-building signal enhancement for first responders.

Local City and County Authorities Having Jurisdiction are enforcing the Code Mandates for ERRAS systems prior to granting Certificate of Occupancy approvals.

IFC Section 5

510.1 Emergency responder radio coverage in new buildings. New buildings shall have approved radio coverage for emergency responders within the building based on the existing coverage levels of the public safety communication systems utilized by the jurisdiction, measured at the exterior of the building. This section shall not require improvement of the existing public safety communication systems.

510.3 and 105.7.5 Permits Requires that a construction permit will be needed for the installation or modification to Public Safety DAS systems and related equipment. However, if maintenance is performed on an existing system construction permit will not be required.

Product Highlight: Comba’s CriticalPoint 700MHz/800MHz BDAs


Comba’s CriticalPoint Class A/B BDA is a 700MHz/800MHz single or dual band digital channelized repeater that was designed with public safety first responders in mind. Fully compliant with the IFC and NFPA (National Fire Protection Association), CriticalPoint’s BDA supports up to 32 channels per band (700MHz and 800MHz). Depending on the size of the building, the BDA is offered in two versions, a .5W or 2W of downlink power per band to accommodate smaller buildings.

  • Fully compliant with the IFC and NFPA
  • Comprehensive Alarming Capabilities
  • Local & SNMP Based Remote Monitoring
  • Low Electrical Operating Cost


Many buildings are constructed without a ERRAS system in place, which leads to inspection failures for jurisdictions where reliable radio frequency transmission throughout the building is required by law. Rather than an afterthought, it’s crucial to design and plan the ERRAS system from the start of a project. Leaving the installation and integration of a ERRAS system at the end of a project can prove costly, especially if the building hasn’t been designed with radio frequencies signals in mind.


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