Sponsored Content

NYC Was Ahead Of Its Time In Public Safety Communications

The public safety communications market has historically been a quiet giant in the wireless industry. In-building connectivity for first responders has always been important, but now mobile carriers are also bringing public safety much closer to their core consumer-facing brand. Look no further than AT&T's creation of its nationwide public safety network FirstNet, followed closely by Verizon’s first responder brand, Frontline, which launched in March 2021. There are also more stringent, clearly-defined regulations for ensuring public safety connectivity like the UL2524, Second Edition, which is now part of the latest National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and International Fire Codes (IFC) codes. 


But the catalyst for this growing emphasis on public safety communications seemed to begin in New York City, when the 9/11 Commission report acknowledged communication failures were a critical element that undermined the response to the attacks. As a result, in-building requirements for public-safety communications were mandated on a statewide basis following the IFC and the NFPA standards. AHJs (Authority Having Jurisdiction) became responsible for interpreting and enforcing the codes. The Fire Department of New York (FDNY), which is New York’s AHJ, requires an In-Building Auxiliary Radio Communication System, also known as ARCS. New York’s enforcement of these codes spearheaded local addendums and policy changes that we now see across the United States.


What Are ARCS?

ARCS is similar to emergency responder communications enhancement systems (ERCES), but is specific to New York City and required under the 2014 NYC building code. The FDNY requires certified radio coverage for new buildings 75 feet or higher throughout the city and its five boroughs - the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, and Staten Island. Older buildings undergoing renovation or changes in occupancy classification might also have to meet this requirement. An ARCS consists of a head-end Radio Amplification Unit (RAU) connected to a building-wide antenna system with a Dedicated Radio Console (DRC) located in the lobby of the building. It isn’t a “set it and forget it” technology either, as the NYC fire code requires annual inspection and recertification every five years.


Why are ARCS and all ERCES important?

Dedicated public safety radio frequencies, including 700/800 MHz or UHF/VHF, cannot easily penetrate man-made building materials from a base station, which makes it challenging or sometimes impossible for first responders to communicate with each other in and around the premises. This is especially true in common dead zones, such as stairwells, elevator shafts, and basements, where patrons don’t normally frequent. ARCS allow the signal to enter buildings via an antenna and are carefully deployed to provide ubiquitous connectivity for first responders. Although it can be confusing for building owners to know where to start, the FDNY provides a list of approved companies that can test and certify ARCS on their website. In order to save time and cost, it is important to work with a certified company with experiences that can help with project management, RF design, permit, testing & certification, and final FDNY submittal and approval.


Ultimately, New York City and their rigorous standards for ARCS are responsible for much of the momentum we are seeing today in public safety communication and the new innovations that are springing up as a result. Technologies such as Z-axis and emergency 911 will help save more lives and that is only possible because of the growing investment and awareness in this industry.