Originally published in Interiors & Sources

04/30/2013

How to Amplify Emergency Radio Signals

Ensure first responders can communicate in your building

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Signal reinforcement is a growing priority for building owners. The most common solution is to use bi-directional amplifiers and a distributed antenna system to improve coverage.

You depend on your in-building wireless communication system on a daily basis, but will a first responder have the same coverage during an emergency?

As building owners work more closely with local fire and police departments to minimize safety concerns, the limitations of in-building communications when a crisis occurs have come into focus.

Learn how to rectify this gap with a few off-the-shelf solutions.

The Challenge
Between incompatible technology platforms, limited antenna coverage, and differing frequency choices, communication interoperability can be difficult to achieve. For starters, the UHF band is the preferred frequency for facilities, whereas public safety operates at 700 and 800 MHz, says Tony Cicirello, director of business development for Mobile Business Communications, a radio solutions provider.

Some facility managers also mistakenly defer to cell phone coverage in lieu of two-way radio communications.

“However, because they are not designed for emergencies when the power goes out and the public network becomes overwhelmed, reliance upon VoIP systems or cell phones can result in unnecessary delays in reaching public safety agencies,” stresses Don Wingo, R&D manager for radio manufacturer Kenwood.

Despite the robust capabilities of two-way radio, small- to mid-sized facilities can find interoperability challenging because they’re not required to have proper infrastructure in place, lack partnerships with public agencies, or don’t have the funds available.

Yet consistent and reliable communication can have a profound impact on life safety compliance.

“Remember that the true first responders during a crisis are actually your staff. In some cases, they even offer basic medical attention to a person before emergency services arrive,” says Cicirello. “They are also responsible for the daily safety protocols that are incorporated into your facility’s best practices. Radio communication is an instant lifeline for security and operations personnel.”


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