Responsible Emergency Communications for the Middleprise Pt. 2


Second of a Three-Part Blog Series

In the first blog in “Responsible Communications in the Enterprise” series, I talked about the responsibility of the Middleprise to provide coverage to tenants and occupants in a building.  In this blog, I’ll talk about responsibilities to first responders. 

First Responder Frequencies, Requirements and Challenges

Strong, in-building networks are critical for first responder communication. You’ve probably seen firsthand how the public uses cellular during an emergency, and it is equally as important to understand how first responder communications work. First responders such as police and fire departments have their own radio networks. This is necessary to ensure adequate coverage and capacity, and to control signal quality with minimal interference. The FCC facilitates this and segregates specific frequencies for dedicated use by first responders.

However, having dedicated frequencies doesn’t guarantee that first responder networks won’t suffer the same challenges that cellular networks have. Building construction materials and building design have a direct impact on radio signals ability to reach deep into a building and to reach beyond the wall of a structure.  Not only do the first responders need coverage where tenants and visitors need it for their cellular coverage (such as main offices and lobbies), but it’s critical that first responders can communicate in places like stairwells, fire control rooms, basements, and parking structures.

To complicate matters, soon more capacity will be demanded by emerging technology like police body cameras, in-building location and the ability to stream live data feeds to support medical emergencies.  First Responders are experiencing their own data tsunami and will experience a rebirth of wireless technology.  Enter the efforts of FirstNet are key and will leverage 5G cellular network technology.  

Whose Responsibility, is It?

Traditionally, first responders manage their own networks and engineer their own network topology. However, the responsibility of ensuring coverage in a building is becoming more and more like other safety features in a building, e.g. fire alarms. Fire and building codes are very specific and define and requirements for public safety coverage.  A building's occupancy is contingent on and making in-building public safety coverage the building owner’s responsibility.

In the meantime, check out some recent videos on Public Safety by Ken Sandfeld and Gregg Glenn here.