Ever since the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, the need for in-building public-safety communications coverage has been identified as a critical need. One of the biggest problems facing the public-safety community is the lack of coverage deep inside a building that can cost a first responder precious minutes.

Today, many jurisdictions are adopting coverage requirements that include those spelled out by the National Fire Prevention Act of 2009, which gives a national framework for individual jurisdictions to follow. Most jurisdictions now are requiring that first responders have communications coverage everywhere in a building — or at least 95% of it — said Rick Swiers, vice president of business development with TriPower, a system integrator for multicarrier Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS).

"Basically, any building that is three stories or greater, that has underground elements or parking, and a tunnel between buildings has to have coverage in those areas," Swiers said.

As such, TriPower is seeing a deluge of business as enterprises look to comply with the new codes. According to Swiers, some 150 cities have enacted this stricter code. The city of Las Vegas, for instance, is particularly aggressive, and casinos are scrambling to comply, Swiers said. Moreover, he believes hospitals and hotels in other cities will be the first targets of these stricter coverage requirements because of their high density of occupants.

"We hear stories all the time. I doubt we go a week without hearing how some first responder couldn't perform his duty," Swiers said. "A person gets injured in the basement of the building, a first responder goes down to help the person, but his radio doesn't work."

The task of providing coverage, however, is complicated given the myriad of frequencies public-safety agencies operate on. A fire department may be operating on a VHF network, while the police department operates on an 800 MHz digital system. But that's where DAS comes in. Increasingly, the DAS not only includes support for cellular frequencies for an enterprise's own communications need but support for the multiple frequencies and technologies used by public safety.

In TriPower's case, the system integrator unveiled earlier this year a multi-carrier DAS manufactured by South Korea — based SOLiD Technologies. The system supports frequencies from 100 MHz — including support for VHF and UHF two-way systems, cellular and paging systems — to 2.5 GHz across one fiber backbone and also includes support for the 700 MHz band, which public safety will use in the future. In addition, WiMAX and LTE can be added as slip-in module.

"We have to be able to anticipate when businesses need to add different functionality, so part of our job is talking to the municipality and getting an idea of whether they are going to 700 MHz or not," Swiers said.

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