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  • Writer's pictureMichael Altman

5 Steps to a Successful Public Safety Radio Deployment

Updated: Apr 30, 2019

As an Arizona resident, this time of year brings with it the joy of baseball spring training and knowing that opening day is around the corner. It also brings to mind some of our baseball legends. I recently came across a quote from the great Yogi Berra that convinced me that Yogi may have had potential as a wireless network project manager. Here is what he said:

“You’ve got to be careful if you don’t know where you are going, ‘cause you might not get there” - Yogi Berra

Yogi had it nailed when it comes to understanding that the success of an in-building public safety radio project is measured by understanding how the outcome of the project will be evaluated. Yogi in his own unique style is simply saying, “begin with the end in mind.”

For indoor public safety radio projects, the expectation of post-installation system performance and code compliance can be far more complex than merely measuring dBs in the target coverage area. To say that ordinances related to deploying a public safety radio network are inconsistently written and enforced is an understatement. Requirements related to cable survivability, uplink system performance and utilization of third-party testing services create a mish-mash of expectations. This complexity and inconsistency is a recipe for massive cost overruns. And unique to indoor public safety radio ordinances is a clause that threatens issuance of a certificate of occupancy if your building does provide radio service for first responders.

There are, however, several steps you can take to reduce deployment risk and navigate the complexities of public safety radio ordinances.


5 Key Steps for a Successful Installation

#1 Contact the Fire Marshall in Your Jurisdiction and Request the Signal Booster Ordinance

Fire department officials are generally very willing to help, but often it is difficult to find the right contact at the department. An excellent place to start is to visit the department website and make a request for a copy of the signal booster ordinance related to first responder in-building signal functionality. At the same time, inquire if the Fire Marshall is using a third party consultant or technician to assist with ordinance enforcement.

# 2 Diligently Review the Signal Booster Ordinance

The ordinances can range from just a few pages to a few dozen. Study the law and keep an eye out for the following:

  • References to applicable Code such as IFC, NFPA, NEC, FCC State & City Fire Code. The ordinance should include the year of each code. For example, 2015 IFC. Read and understand the applicable portions of the referenced codes.

  • Confirm the frequencies to be supported now, proposed or pending. Understand that the building owner is in most cases responsible for funding any system upgrades to support new frequency bands.

# 3 Fully Understand the Pre Install and Post Install Testing Standards

Testing standards for public safety radio systems are rapidly changing. In the past, test standards included measuring and recording signal strength in the coverage area or spot-checking call quality with a fire department radio. However more contemporary standards are addressing the potential for adverse impacts of the system on the public safety network outside of the building.

#4 Use Design Best Practices Well Suited to Indoor Public Safety Antenna Systems

It is not uncommon for an experienced cellular network system designer to venture into designing systems that support public safety networks. While many of the design principals are the same, there are some design practices unique to public safety networks.

#5 Validate Constructions Standards

Each jurisdiction may have different construction and performance standards. Know that the rules may change from the time that you begin planning for the project and the point that you start the build. And the standards may be impacted by varying departments and the leeway given to a third-party consultant acting on behalf of the AHJ.

Yogi had it right. When planning an indoor public safety radio system, knowing where you are going is the key to getting there. It starts with engaging your AHJ/ Fire Marshall. Become intimately familiar with codes and ordinances. When designing a system consider requirements that are unique to first responder networks. It pays to be very curious about potential changes to requirements and the people who may be reviewing your work. Fully understand the key criteria used to evaluate approval of your system and permit. Finally, remember our ultimate goal….. protecting the lives of public and first responders.


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