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Choosing the Right Installer for an In-Building Public Safety Radio Project

Installing an In-building First Responder Radio System could get more complicated and costly than it needs to be if you don’t hire the right installer
It is always tempting to pick the lowest bidder, but choosing a systems integrator with recent experience, local code knowledge and one having good relations with the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) is always more important than doing it on the cheap for many reasons.
bi-directional-amplifier-diagram public safety radioHere are five important questions to ask the bidders:

  • Question #1: The obvious first question verifies experience. How many installs have they done in the last 12 months, how large were the structures, in what jurisdictions were they located and what customer references are available for those installs?

The kind of response you are looking for: Should see a minimum of three in the last 12 months and at least one that is larger than your building and ideally one that is referenceable in your jurisdiction.
 Question #2: Do they have iBwave certified engineers, how many and what level of certification? Also what RF signal test equipment do they use?

    • Note: iBwave is the AutoCAD of RF. There are other design software packages but iBwave has most market share by far and is usually called out by code.

The kind of response you are looking for: At least one ‘level 1’ certified iBwave engineer will do. Level two or three would be better, but not usually necessary for PS level design. Test equipment will vary, but it must be able to determine arcuate outdoor and indoor signal strength and clearly determine/show the presence any RF signal interference that will affect the installation.

  • Question #3: How well do they know the local code?

The kind of response you are looking for: Ask the installer to show you a copy of the local code and brief you on its contents. Some questions you might ask are how long is the fire rating on the cable, how long is the battery up? How much does the local code vary from the national codes and in what areas?  Note: you don’t have to be expert, but the clarity and crispness of the answers will tell you a great deal.

  • Question #4: Who is the AHJ for project and what is their relationship with the AHJ inspectors.

 The kind of response you are looking for: They should easily be able to give you names and numbers and last time contacted and some sense of how good the relationship. Also ask if you can call the inspectors in reference to their work.

  • Question #5: Will the installer guarantee passing the acceptance test without change orders.

The kind of response you are looking for: You are looking for an installer who will see the project through until you get acceptance from the AHJ and put it in writing. Change orders will be approved only under very extraordinary circumstances well beyond the installer’s control.

In most cases RF design for public safety systems is not complicated for truly qualified vendors. Having a good knowledge of the local code and having working relations with the AHJ inspectors is very important. Getting an appropriate response to the  aforementioned questions will definitely help in the decision making process.

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