From the Chief’s Corner: Safer Buildings Expands to Canada

Chief Alan Perdue

SBC Celebrates Milestone Hosting First Ever International In-Building Public Safety Communications Seminar
By Chief Alan Perdue (ret.), SBC Executive Director
Posted on July 28, 2022

When one thinks about communication you can’t help but think about the work of Alexander Graham Bell and the telephone. A device that many in today's world consider to be essential to their everyday lives. Bell who in 1870 moved to Canada was an accomplished inventor but also one who has several interesting quotes attributed to him. For example, Bell said; “The only difference between success and failure is the ability to take action.”

Well, the Safer Buildings Coalition, an organization that focuses on communications inside buildings for both the public and public safety, certainly “took action” with support of SBC members Genwave Technologies, Alliance Corporation, PCTEL, and Comba this month by delivering our very first In-Building Communications Event in Toronto, Canada. And, what an event it was! 

In preparing for the Canada event, I reflected on the work of many of our members who had the foresight to chart a course of exploration. To travel for the purpose of discovery, a journey organized for a particular purpose. The Coalition’s initial launch into Canada would take us to the Province of Ontario, which includes over 38% of the country’s population. Through the team’s collective exploration and research, it was identified that law enforcement, fire and EMS responders within Ontario and other Provinces throughout Canada face many of the same issues as their United States counterparts. Construction features utilized within the built environment such as low-e glass, LEED Certified buildings, dense construction materials, and many others impact the ability of radio frequency (RF) to adequately penetrate the building’s interior. However, one significant difference was noted from that of the US, and that was that most areas within Canada have not adopted codes and standards to address this important first responder safety aspect commonly referred to as ERCES. There are a few that have local bylaws but nothing really on a regional nor international level.

“Someone Ought to Do Something”

As it is with many issues, it would be easy to sit back and say, well when someone gets some requirements in place, we will do something. But like Bell, that’s not the SBC way of thinking. At SBC, we follow the concept identified in one of Bells other famous quotes: 

“The inventor looks upon the world and is not contented with things as they are. He wants to improve whatever he sees; he wants to benefit the world; he is haunted by an idea. The spirit of invention possesses him, seeking materialization.” 

For SBC, it’s all about making something happen, solving problems especially those that have the potential to place one’s life in jeopardy. It’s worth noting that during the event, there was significant dialogue about taking steps to work collectively with all stakeholders to seek adoption of relevant codes and standards that will address the in-building communication issues. Having individuals take the important exploration step certainly identified the opportunity that exist with materialization of a solution.

What’s the Opportunity?

The opportunity is that anyone can choose to be engaged and involved in making a difference. What will it take? Dedication and commitment to see it through to the end. As many of you probably know by now, I am a data-driven person. I believe data should drive decisions and it is imperative to solving real problems. So, I asked this question during the session, “How big is the problem here in this area and how many buildings have issues with in-building coverage?” 

As you can imagine, there was no actual documentation. Several attendees agreed there was anecdotal information that significant issues exist with some buildings throughout the area they were familiar with, but also confirmed there was no statistical data available.

At the end of the session, something amazing happened that truly identifies one of the purposes and benefits of the Coalition. Three integrators came up to me and said something that really hit home when you work in this type of organization. They said, “We are all competitors, but we think by working together we can help define the problem much quicker than public safety can start tracking it.”  

I said, “How is that?”

To which they answered, “We can pull all our individual testing data together into a common source so you and the public safety community can use it to identify the magnitude of the issue. Furthermore, when we are testing for cellular, we can test for public safety while we are in these buildings to help solve this problem sooner for our first responders.”

I was blown away. Here in just a few short hours we had a room full of stakeholders representing public safety, industry, building owners who realized that working together in a country that had limited involvement in ERCES were ready to roll up their sleeves and get to work. 

Now I am not naive, I know that we are on a journey that will take some time to complete in this new opportunity. But like Bell also said; “You cannot force ideas. Successful ideas are the result of slow growth.” Indeed, we are planting the seeds to achieve a bountiful harvest for the future. A future that could include you if you choose to “take action.” 

We look forward to further exploration and opportunities that help us help others in our efforts to eliminate wireless dead spots wherever they are so that first responders and the public can communicate in an emergency.  Are you ready to help us out? If so, stay engaged and join us in the next step to being a global influence that will make the world safer. #feelsafeinside…

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