Bi-Directional Amplification | Two-Way Radio Communication Enhancement System

 

WHAT is a BDA system?

A Bi-Directional Amplification system (BDA) is a “reliable in-building public safety radio coverage infrastructure system used to safeguard emergency communications”.  In short, a BDA is a system that helps to enhance in-building radio frequency signal coverage for public safety use.

This system is primarily used to address the performance of emergency responders’ portable radios and maintain wireless communications with the first responders inside buildings and emergency personal outside the building during medical emergencies, fires, etc. Building construction, size, and construction features (such as Low-E windows) can absorb or block radio communications. With adequate levels of signal strength, efficient communications can save the lives of first responders and building occupants alike.

WHO is required to install/maintain this type of system?

                Emergency Radio Communication Enhancement Systems (ERCES) were first introduced in the 2009 International Building Code. Currently, AHJ’s are the determining factor on whether a system is needed for a particular building and/or if a current system is adequate. A determination will not be made until an RF survey, performed by a specialized FCC GROL license holder, is completed.  Results are then submitted to the AHJ for final determination of what will be required (Full System, Partial System, and Waiver).

WHERE can I find the codes requiring this system to be installed and maintained?

                NFPA 1221 (2016 Edition), NFPA 72 (2013, 2010 Editions) all specify the requirements for these systems. International Fire Code (IFC – Section 510). IBC Section 916 (2015 Edition), IBC Section 915 (2012 Edition).

WHEN do I have to have my system installed and/or working properly?

                This varies by jurisdiction, but it is rapidly being enforced by AHJ’s throughout Florida. Florida Statute 633.202 will become effective December 31, 2019 and require certain hospitals to meet specific standards under NFPA for in-building, two-way radio coverage.

WHY are these systems needed?

                Reliable radio coverage is essential for first responders during emergencies, yet 56% of fire departments have experienced communications failure during an emergency incident within the last two years. If a building has areas where emergency radio signals are not sufficient for reliable communications, a distributed antenna system (DAS) will amplify and distribute the signals to the needed areas. If a system is installed but coverage isn’t equal, the solution could be as simple as installing a distributed antenna system (DAS) to help distribute the RF signal throughout a building, stadium, hospital or other defined areas.

                A notable time when a system failed is during the 9/11 attacks.  Clear warnings form emergency command centers were received by first responders around the buildings instructing crews to pull fire fighters out due to obvious structural damage.  These warnings were sent 21 minutes before the 2nd tower fell.  Even though the ground crews communicated that information through the radio system, the lack of signal strength inside the buildings contributed to hundreds of lives being lost that day.

 

Piper Fire Protection is ready to assist you with any questions or concerns you may have about BDAs. Please reach out to  customersupport@piperfire.com or by calling us at 800-327-7604.