You’ll Pay for Neglect, One Way or Another

RF Solutions

Posted on June 17, 2020
By Lisa Jardine, Director of Communications, RF Solutions

“Command from Squad 41, go ahead with your message.” “Command from Squad 41, go ahead with your message.”

An auxiliary radio communication system (ARCS) is a firefighter’s lifeline. Without it, they may as well communicate with a bullhorn. The last thing the Commander wants to hear in response to his or her request is radio silence. 

Let’s assume that two years prior, the ARCS in that particular building passed FDNY inspection, and the building received its Certificate of Occupancy. Tenants moved in, and the building boasts a near 100% occupancy rate. And then a kitchen fire occurs on the 37th floor. The tenants flee their apartment, leaving the door open. The fire spreads throughout the floor, trapping tenants inside their apartments. It turns out that this particular ARC system wasn’t properly monitored, and there was a faulty antenna. The firefighter on the fire floor can’t respond to the Commander’s radio request for information. Geoff Smith, Director of Support Services at RF Solutions, explained, “An effective response to a fire emergency, particularly in high-rise office and residential buildings, is reliant on robust and reliable communications. In many situations, it’s vital for the safety of the firefighter, as well as the building office worker and resident.”

Monitoring and maintaining ARC system is not just important; it’s the law. There’s only one way to make sure that when a firefighter grabs his or her hand-held radio, it works. There’s no substitute for regular testing and inspections, also known as Day Two Support. As specified in the FDNY FC511, an approved ARC System must be operated and maintained in good working order and allow for remote monitoring and maintenance of the system. In addition, the FDNY fire code requires annual testing and fault mitigation of the system, as well. 

“A key learning after the review of in-building emergency communications systems in the World Trade Center revealed the importance of installing reliable, robust, and effective in-building communication networks. Additionally, it was crucial not only to install these systems but also to ensure they are maintained in good working order,” Smith said. 

Our 24/7/365 remote monitoring utilizes a secure remote connection (either cellular, Wi-Fi, or a direct link) from a building’s Radio Amplification Unit (“RAU”) to our support team at RF Solutions. The ARC system is RAU-centric, and the antenna plants are directly connected to and are powered by the RAU. This allows the RAU to monitor the system’s health. In addition to the remote testing, a daily test can be conducted manually by pressing a button on the DRC. A recordkeeping log is provided to the building owner at regularly scheduled intervals, no less than once a day. “Before ARCS, defects might have gone unnoticed with potential life-threatening implications. A closely monitored system will expedite a corrective response when an alarm is triggered. RF Solutions monitors everything from a loss of AC power in the building to damage to the building antenna network,” said Smith. 

The ARC system components must be inspected and tested annually to confirm that the system is still in good working order. The certification document is then submitted to the FDNY for permit renewal. ARC systems are specific to New York City; however, in-building public safety systems are required by law throughout the United States and are referred to as Emergency Responder Radio Communication Systems, also known as ERRCS. These systems need to be monitored and maintained as well, although laws differ with each Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ). Day Two support services work similarly outside of New York City, regardless of the location and irrespective of who designed or installed it. A public safety system protects the public, but the protection only works if the system works. And like the title of this article says, you’ll pay for neglect, one way or another.