4 signs your building may need a first responder radio system

National and state fire code requires all new commercial buildings to provide adequate indoor radio coverage for first responders. Even though this code is longstanding in many states, enforcement is heating up in Ohio as well as Colorado, Florida, Nevada, and Washington.

Ohio ERRS codes

Ohio fire and building codes require all new commercial and multi-tenant-residential buildings to provide radio coverage for emergency services personnel. If a building fails the mandatory radio-signal test, the building owner may be required by local authorities to install an Emergency Responder Radio System (ERRS), which is an independent, public-safety antenna booster system that ensures signals penetrate all problem areas of buildings.

Emergency responder radio coverage shall be provided in all new buildings in accordance with Section 510 of the fire code.
— Ohio Building Code Section 915

4 signs your building may need an ERRS

Do these fire codes apply to your building? What inhibits radio coverage in a building? Are certain buildings prone to failing the ERRS test?

Every building is unique when it comes to radio frequency and signal transmission, but generally speaking, here are 4 signs that your building may need an ERRS:

  1. Your building is new construction. In Ohio, all newly built commercial structures and existing buildings undergoing major renovations must provide adequate radio coverage. ERRS testing can be scheduled as soon as the core and shell are complete and all permanent doors and windows are installed. Accurate measurements of radio-signal strength cannot be measured if temporary plywood windows are in place, for example, because wood allows radio signals to pass through easily.

  2. Your building contains low-E glass, dense concrete walls, or metal wall structures. These materials are notorious RF signal-blockers. It’s not surprising that they’re commonly found in areas of a building that have low signal strength, such as elevators, stairwells, and parking garages.

  3. Your building’s location is not close enough to a radio tower or it does not have a clear sightline to a tower. Wireless communication systems like those used by first responders improve constantly, but the signals still cannot overcome blockades like other buildings standing between yours and the tower or travel distances beyond the system’s capacity.

  4. You building has a basement or below-grade floor. These spaces almost always fail RF tests.

Local authorities make the call

State and national fire codes set the standards for first responder radio systems, but enforcement is directed by the local authority having jurisdiction (AHJ). In Columbus, Ohio, for example, the local AHJ is the Columbus Division of Fire, which has developed comprehensive guidelines for ERRS.

Many local jurisdictions, including Columbus, require compliance with ERRS guidelines before issuing a certificate of occupancy.

In addition to flagging issues during new construction, the local AHJ may require ERRS testing in existing structures when there is a major remodeling project, change of use designation, or a communication problem for first responders in a building during an emergency call.

Integrated Building Systems provides ERRS testing, system design, installation, and annual inspections. Our ERRS experience in Central Ohio includes:

Beta Theta Pi fraternity house, Ohio State University
First & Main of New Albany
Heartland Bank
Trivium Development
CCL Industries
Tri-Village Storage
National Veterans Memorial and Museum

Start an ERRS project with us

If you’re building a new commercial facility or planning a major renovation to an existing structure in Ohio, you will need a qualified ERRS vendor to conduct an initial RF survey and submit test results to the local AHJ. If your building fails this test and the local AHJ determines that correction is needed, you’ll also need a skilled technology vendor to design, install, and service an ERRS system.

Integrated Building Systems offers comprehensive ERRS services: testing, system design, installation, and annual inspections.

Contact us to learn more and to schedule first responder radio testing at your building.