Municipalities increasingly are codifying in-building coverage requirements for first-responder communications. That trend likely will accelerate now that international and domestic codes, the latter created by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), were finalized earlier this year.

“If you don't have a code today, you will in the future,” said in-building communications system expert Jack Daniel.

Daniel said the codes can be adopted outright, or municipalities can use them as a blueprint for developing their own codes. In either event, the task of writing in-building coverage codes just got a lot easier, he said, and that should spark increased activity.

“It saves you from having to write your own code, which everyone has done over the past several years … this takes out a big chunk of that effort,” Daniel said. “If you refer to the national codes, you already have an authoritative source for your code.”

But he added that the codes “aren't cast in stone” and can be modified to meet local requirements.

According to Daniel, the NFPA code requires that:

  • Backup batteries provide 12 hours of 100% operation;
  • Signal boosters are housed in NEMA Type-4 enclosures, with batteries housed in NEMA Type-4 waterproof enclosures;
  • Systems provide 99% coverage in critical areas as designated by the local fire department, and 90% coverage in general-use areas;
  • Buildings use distributed antenna systems with FCC-approved signal boosters;
  • Systems are capable of transmitting on all local public-safety frequencies;
  • All system components be compatible with local public-safety radio systems;
  • The system designer and operator are FCC-licensed; and
  • Building owners are contracted with a service provider that can provide two-hour response after being notified of a system failure.

Daniel doesn't believe there will be any resistance from developers. “When you look at the cost of these systems, compared with the cost of a new structure … it is absolutely minimal when you're talking about a $20 million, $50 million, or $100 million building. It's all relative.”