For the last 20 years, CTS has been providing world class cellular in-building solutions to the Wireless Service Providers (AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint) and to their enterprise customers across the nation. With over 7,000 projects to date under our belt, a national footprint of regional offices, a design center running a record number of iBWave design licenses 24 hours a day, five days a week, and a Network Operating Center running 24×7 to monitor, maintain and repair both our own and others’ DAS systems, our track record of success in design, deployment and maintaining these systems has elevated CTS’ name to top-tier status in the industry.
So, one would think that adding Emergency Responder Radio Communication Systems (ERRCS) into our menu would be relatively simple for us, right? At first glance, it might seem that it’s really the same thing, just for a different customer. Right? Not so simple.
To understand the fallacy of that line of thinking, we need to look at where those ERRCS Codes are today, and the challenges they represent to all of the stakeholders. This is a long list of well-seasoned veterans in their own right who, like CTS, find themselves a bit confused at times as they try to navigate their way through very muddy waters to understand the true scope of the required build. Code Writers, State and Local Governments, AHJs, Equipment Manufacturers, Distributors, Systems Integrators (Design, Build, Maintain), Building Developers & REITS, Architects & Engineers, General Contractors, and Building Management Groups all have some skin in this game.
The NFPA and IFC codes are relatively new, and in some cases, not accurate or are poorly worded at best. Because code writers review, adopt and publish code on a three-year cycle, it might take up to three years for code revisions and corrections to be published. Published code is reviewed at a State Level for adoption, then at County and City levels. At each step of the way, they can be adopted “as is” or with revisions. In all cases, there are frequently vast differences in the way the codes are interpreted and enforced.
Then begins the task of training the AHJs, a process that can take tremendous effort and another two to three years, making jurisdictions one or two code cycles behind. In the wireless tech industry, this represents two to three generations of better equipment development that isn’t even up for consideration yet.
While both NFPA and IFC Codes require ERRCS to function throughout 95% of all new commercial buildings and 99% of critical areas, understanding what code year, amendments, interpretations, plan review and permitting requirements (fire and building) apply becomes an arduous task at best. Depending on the level of training within that particular AHJ community, there may or may not be anyone who has all of those answers. Finding the correct person and talking to them is a critical step in the process of understanding what the true scope of work is.
While these codes and requirements have been on the books for the last seven-plus years, many communities are actually just beginning to enforce them, taking developers, contractors and engineers by surprise. So the challenges are great, even to those who have been in virtually the same industry for decades. We might know how to design and build great systems, but finding out what the specific requirements are in the local municipality remains a very big challenge.
CASE STUDY #1: AN EAST COAST BEACH CITY
A national developer of time-share properties had obtained their required variances and permits, built out their property and was in the process of final inspections to obtain the Certificate of Occupancy. When the Fire Marshals came to inspect the Fire, Life Safety systems they saw that their radios didn’t work in many locations of the building and failed the building, citing the newly enforced IFC-510 code requirements that had been adopted at both a state and local level.
It took the developer an additional 90 days to correct the deficiency and obtain the CO, causing their prospective tenants to miss vacations and the developer unplanned expense and lost revenue.
Some of the conditions causing this event were:
• The Fire Marshal (AHJ) began enforcing this requirement during the construction of this project and applied it to their build. This meant notification hadn’t been made during the plan review process, surprising the contractor and owner at the final inspection.
• The Architect and Engineering consultants of record were not well versed in the ERRCS codes and/or their adoption at the state and local level, so had made no inquiries or allowances in the build.
A DIFFERENT PROCESS
Developers, REITS and the supporting group of Architects, Engineers and Contractors have been building and adapting to building and fire code requirements for decades. Their process is refined and accurate for what they’ve done in the past, but these new codes find them outside of their comfort zone. The technology is unfamiliar, there is no historical information, and the process of determining what the build, budget and schedule will be occurs much later in their current process.
• Code only requires enhancements to the ERRCS in those areas where the outdoor signal isn’t providing adequate coverage. It’s rare that the entire building would require enhancement, but that determination can’t be made until the building has progressed to the point where signal measurements can be taken.
• Because of the vast differences in interpretation and enforcement of the codes, vast differences in the costs prevent accurate modeling
• NOT anticipating critical infrastructure needs early in the process could require cutting and patching of finished surfaces, adding unneeded cost.
The stakeholders in this process have many challenges at every stage: determining need, designing a solution, obtaining reviews and approvals, establishing budget and schedule, integration into the overall build, and final inspection & acceptance. If you are one who isn’t familiar with all of this, it is critically important that you find experienced consultants and engineers to provide direction and clarity; important because it provides the security of knowing you will be developing the right solution, budget and schedule up front, and avoiding cost overruns and delays.
CASE STUDY 2: A 500,000 Sq. Ft. CLASS A OFFICE SPACE – SoCal
With the building complete, including a new ERRCS DAS Enhancement, the General Contractor was obtaining final inspections to receive the Certificate of Occupancy for the tenant. Unfortunately, the installation was not meeting the required performance metrics and had not passed inspection with the AHJ. After weeks of failed attempts to correct the problems working through the engineer and installer of the system, the contractor reached out to CTS for help.
CTS found quickly that the existing design was incorrect and that very little of the installation could be reused in the required correction. A new design was developed and submitted to the AHJ, and was installed and approved, releasing the much-delayed Certificate of Occupancy and allowing the tenant to move in.
This most likely occurred because:
• The contractor/developer didn’t understand the dynamics of these requirements and issued the “typical” RFP for a firm, fixed bid to provide the needed services.
• While it was too early in the build to develop a valid response to the RFP, the respondents were either ignorant of the code or the process of obtaining the correct information.
• The owner and contractor were unaware of the response deficiencies. An award was made because the price was low, when in fact no correct price (or design) could possibly have been developed at the time of the request.
1.This is a very technical, very young and rapidly changing code that the entire industry and its stakeholders are struggling to get their collective heads around.
2.Issuing the “typical” RFP at the beginning of the project is an invitation for the unqualified to respond, and paves the way for missed budgets, schedules and revenue realization.
3.These solutions require a different approach on the part of the Developer/ Contractor. It is important to find and engage an experienced, qualified consulting engineer early in the planning and development stage, much as architects and engineers are hired during the planning stages of a new build or a remodel. A trusted partner in this will establish realistic expectations, budgets, designs and schedules and avoid costly overruns and delayed revenue.
When it comes to Public Safety Emergency Responder Radio Communication Systems Enhancement, CTS is second to none in the nation in providing a complete suite of services that will guarantee the earliest visibility and the right solution, for any build.
Consulting & Planning Services provide the stakeholders with accurate and timely assessment of the need from the earliest point of the new build process; guaranteeing the right solution, at the right cost, and keeping the project on schedule. There are no surprises.
Deployment Services offer the option of a full turnkey build using the CTS in-house Project Management and Installation teams, or can offer Program and Project Management-only services should it be more advantageous. Either way, the system is installed correctly and is of the highest quality.
System Performance & Post Deployment Services inspect the newly installed system, provide the required technical turn-up and integration, and coordinate the AHJ Inspection and Acceptance testing. The CTS Network Operating Center becomes the lifeline of the system with 24×7 Monitoring with options for preventative maintenance, system repair, and code-required annual recertification.
CTS is the trusted partner you can count on.