ERRCS don’t have to irk you! VFS Fire & Security Service’s Director of Fire Alarm Operations, Kevin Gregory, joins us to explain the importance of updating your alarm and communication systems.
What is ERRCS?
ERRCS stands for Emergency Responder Radio Communication Systems, also known as Bi-Directional Antenna Systems, or DAS.
While both systems are fairly similar, there are some slight differences between the two. Their main similarity is that they are both used within commercial and residential buildings to allow emergency responders to communicate with each other via two-way radio in areas that they may not have been able to in the past.
The system is an amplification system. It amplifies the radio signals between first responders’ radios during an emergency.
During the events of 9/11, the need for high-functioning ERRCS/DAS systems came to the forefront of everyone’s attention.
During that tragedy, there was a lot of commotion, which highlighted the need for a tool where emergency responders are able to communicate without interruption or signal loss.
The requirements for ERRCS used to be that any building that was three stories or had subterranean parking would be required to be tested for ERRCS. Now, it has transitioned to where these guidelines are required for most new buildings.
The building department or fire department come into your building and test for signal strength and review your ERRCS– this is primarily happening to new construction projects. During this review, they can require that you add in an additional amplifier if necessary.
Typically, buildings require one system throughout the building. Depending on the size of the building and the layout, there may be additional amplifiers required. The number of antennas that are installed in your building is dependent upon a heat map, which is generated through what’s called a sweep test or a 20 grid test.
VFS Fire and Security Services specializes in installing and inspecting ERRCS systems. The process typically includes our team going through your building with a spectrum analyzer and a fireman’s radio handset or a signal generator.
The testing results in a report and heat map that shows where you have signal coverage and where you might be lacking coverage. These reports go back to the building departments or fire departments for approval. There’s an ongoing need and requirement for testing and inspection on an annual basis to ensure that the integrity of the system is still operational with NFPA updates and requirements.
Additionally, there are a lot of outside forces to be considered with building updates and keeping up with inspections. For instance, there could be a building constructed to be neighboring your own building, which could result in a different signal or tenant. This is one of the main reasons it’s crucial to keep up-to-date on ERRCS and DAS systems for your commercial building.
New Building Updates Affect Your ERRCS System
Additional improvement work inside your building can affect your ERRCS systems. The use of e-glass is becoming more and more common, which alters the requirements for your ERRCS in regard to needing additional amplification systems throughout the building.
Inspections and maintenance are essential to the safety of your building. Not only do your ERRCS/DAS need to be updated regularly, but so do your fire alarm systems, sprinkler systems, and other fire safety systems. Read more about your inspection and maintenance schedule in our blog It’s time to get it together and inspect your building more than once a year!