How to Tell If Your Building Needs an Emergency Radio Amplification System.
Why does your cell phone work in a tunnel? Cellular signals can now propagate through tunnels because much work has been performed to create a Distributed Antenna System, or a DAS. A DAS is a wireless network primarily used to extend cell coverage so your passengers can make and receive calls/texts, surf the web, stream files, even as your vehicle travels underground.
Your local first responder—fire fighter, EMT, or police officer—needs the same capability inside your building during an emergency. The emergency services use multiple, fixed radio tall towers to provide coverage to first responders. These towers operate on a 700-800 MHz radio spectrum, regulated by Industry Canada, to enable interoperable and flexible communications across Canadian public safety agencies, large or small. However, in large, dense urban areas, signals from these towers may not be able to broadcast through buildings, making it difficult or impossible for first responders to communicate with one another, making it harder for them to do their job: protecting you.
What factors stop emergency communications from happening? Your home may be in a radio frequency shadow area of a neighbouring tower. Or the materials, such as concrete, it is made from may stop the RF from propagating through your building.
So, how can you tell if your building needs an Emergency Radio Amplification System?
Here are some questions to ask your builder, real estate agent, or condo board:
Is your building built with reinforced concrete or structural steel?
Does it use metal studs, cladding, or flooring?
Are your windows low emissivity or reflective glass?
Is the floor greater than 5000 square meters or are your ceilings over 12 meters in height?
Are any of the floor levels, including the parking garage, wholly or partially underground?
If you said yes to any of these questions, your building might need to install a Public Safety DAS.
Much like the cellular DAS that keeps you connected enroute, these Public Safety DAS enable first responders to communicate with one another when they are in your building. The system itself is not a complicated one. A donor antenna is pointed, line of sight, at the closest 700-800 MHz (the emergency communication frequency) tower antenna and mounted on the roof of your building. That antenna will deliver the emergency communications signal to a Bi-Directional Amplifier(BDA), which, in turn, will deliver the signal along cables to a series of distributed antennas throughout your building. The emergency services team will be able to pick up the signal from within the building and use it to communicate with one another.
Many municipalities now require a Public Safety DAS (emergency radio amplification system) in any new buildings and in buildings that are undergoing substantial renovations (any renovation that adds more than 20% floor area to the total floor area of the building, and/or has a building permit construction value exceeding $1,000,000). The system needs to be tested once a year. Before you buy a new home, or before your condo association agrees to a substantial renovation, make sure you ask about a Public Safety DAS.
Cartel has been engineering in-building DAS emergency communications systems for more than 20 years. If you think your building needs an emergency radio amplification system, give me a call. Cartel can find a solution that will keep the emergency communications working where you need it most.
—Dave Love, Regional Sales Manager