Over the past year, I have sat with an overwhelming number of real estate developers who are caught off guard with a 6 figure bill for a Public Safety DAS in the middle of construction.
Let's quickly start at the beginning and discuss what Public Safety DAS is, and how the last minute budget addition can happen.
Public Safety DAS is a code driven requirement that mandates emergency personnel be able to use their two-way radios within buildings. Within the code, there are more specific requirements for allowable coverage gaps, and minimum service levels the building must provide.
For reference, you'll also hear Public Safety DAS referred to as Life Safety DAS, BDA, ERRCS, Emergency Radio Responder Coverage, and First Responder DAS. They all mean the exact same thing.
This code is guided at a high level by the IFC and NFPA code standards, but the actual enforcement of the code, is defined by the local jurisdiction / fire marshall / AHJ.
In many jurisdictions I work in, the code has been present for years, but the enforcement testing is just starting. For others, the code is completely new and building owners are learning about it in the late stages of construction, or because another one of their developments failed testing and they were forced to learn their lesson moving forward.
This is a formular for budgetary havoc.
For development teams, the code enforcement can be both frustrating and confusing. Frustrating due to the budgetary concerns, and confusing because they don't know where to start. If the local jurisdiction requires public safety DAS in the properties, there is still another step....Does the building pass without it?
Depending on the jurisdiction, the fire marshall / AHJ may make provisions to help with preliminary testing when the building is under construction to see if it will likely fail testing. But final testing cannot be completed until the building is complete, the windows and doors are installed, and it's entirely closed up. The timeline issues become readily apparent.
Solving the Issues and Meeting Code
There are several options for how to solve the problem once it is recognized, some options are below.
Option 1: Deploy A Full System
More often than not, when a developer finds out mid-construction that their building is failing, they will contract with a team who hears the requirements "Building is failing" and they will design a solution to solve the problem. This solution will be a full scale ERRC system that guarantees coverage throughout the entirety of the building.
This option will solve the problem, but can present unnecessary budget allocation if there are only selected areas of the building that are failing.
Option 2: Wait Until Completion, Address the Failing Areas
As mentioned, the fire marshall in many cases wil not run the final certification testing for the building until it is fully completed. This will allow you to get a report of the exact areas that are failing and address only those failure points. It can come with some solution savings on the DAS system, but those might be offset by the impact to opening schedule, and the costs associated with drywall punches while retrofitting the building
Option 3: Address the DAS in Stages
Once a fire marshall or AHJ provides the testing requirements, the developer should hire an integration team who can help with indepedent testing. The best public safety DAS integrators will use high level testing equipment to help the developer understand where the building failures will be prior to full completion. Getting this information ahead of time gives the developer flexibility.
Typically, it allows them to prewire the building for the areas of need, and then wait until final completion to connect in the active components of the system. This provides the best of both worlds- No drywall damage or project retrofitting, while also avoiding the deployment of a full system when it's unncessary to do so.
Alex Goge is the National Director of Sales for Illuminati Labs. He has helped deployed hundreds of DAS systems across the United States. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org