LAFD Enhances ERRCS Code Compliance

LAFD Enhances ERRCS Code Compliance

by Will Washburn

Published 11/24/18

There is a lot of buzz surrounding the enforcement of mandatory ERRCS systems in structures over 50,000 square feet in the City of Los Angeles. There is an equal amount of confusion surrounding this topic as well. Many developers and construction companies have been caught off guard and are not able to get CO (Certificate of Occupancy) on their new developments, because they don’t pass the signal test and have made no provision for an Emergency Responder System. This system was never in the scope from the architects, hence it was never made the budget or the construction loan.  Just 2 years ago this was not a requirement to get CO. Make no mistake about it; LAFD has taken enforcement to a new level. Having said this there is still broad spread confusion about the interpretation of the code. NFPA 72 and NFPA 1221 have set the standards of the code, but each AHJ (Authority Having Jurisdiction) has their own augmentations and interpretations to the code.  Furthermore, each municipality may have their own broadcast system and adaptations of the code. Because this is a new process for the AHJ, there is some interpretation confusion at the pan check and inspection levels. This creates somewhat of a slippery slope for the engineers and integrators of these systems.

LAFD has a 9-site P 25  simulcast system in the 800 MHz frequencies. Municipalities like Beverly Hills, Burbank and Santa Monica have chosen not to participate in the LAFD system and have their own systems in the UHF 400-500 MHz frequencies. Determining jurisdiction can be somewhat confusing, and compliance, permitting and the plan check process can be also be challenging.

Demand for these systems has exploded. So much so, that inputs for these systems are routinely back ordered as the manufacturers cannot keep up production to meet the demands of nationwide enforcement. Most of the head end equipment is custom built for each application and has rendered 6-14 week lead times for BDA’s in certain frequencies. Cable, splitters, tappers and connectors are routinely back ordered from the surge in demand. Managing supply chain for these systems requires a vendor to stock consumables and materials to have them available on demand.

With all the new development and record levels of construction of Multi-Family and Commercials space, the attention of the AHJ has been focused on new construction. This does not however exempt existing structures. This code requires coverage on all properties that meet the criteria. The focus has been on new construction, because of massive increase of new development, but when this boom slows down, the AHJ will certainly redirect their focus on existing structures.

The confusion passes down through to the General Contractor. It is a natural impulse for the Developer/GC to look to the Electrical or Low Voltage contractors for resolution of this requirement. Most are in the same boat as the developer, because this is not in their wheel house and they do not have in house staff to meet the demand. Designing an ERRCS system requires sophisticated RF engineering, expensive design software and dedicated staff to successfully design and build these systems.  Most are not prepared to address this scope and look to specialists for design and engineering, which adds cost to the deployment, as they markup someone else’s services. The GC generally puts the scope out for RFP and generally goes with low bid from an unqualified provider, as this scope was never in the budget. Beware of this proclivity, as there is a lot of risk in designing these systems. If not engineered properly, a poorly designed system may result in not passing the grid test required to get CO, or even worse, creating interference the AHJ’s system, rendering it useless.

These systems are a burden to the developer that they are not accustom to shouldering. The same could be said about fire protection systems years ago. This code and enforcement is here to stay. The bottom line is that we all want our first responders to be safe and afforded protection when saving lives. We feel honored to assist in this pursuit and provide turnkey solutions to the industry, and will continue to provide excellence in service to our customers.

Will Washburn, is the COO of Combined Operations for Digitechx Inc. a global provider of wireless services to the carrier and enterprise markets.

About Digitechx

Digitechx is a local and global provider of DAS systems for both ERRCS and Cellular enhancement. With local office in Los Angeles, we have garnered a solid market share in the county  and have successfully navigated the waters of code compliance an all the jurisdictions. Digitechx looks forward to breaking the 10,000,000 square feet threshold of annual production in the Los Angeles community of ERRCS systems in 2019. With over 2,650,100 Square feet in local production in Q4 of 2018, and another 7,309,000 square feet in design and engineering phase, Digitechx has helped our local customer base comply with the code, and has a working knowledge of what is required to get Certificate of Occupancy in new construction or maintain it on existing properties.

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