How Does An Emergency Responder Radio Communication System Work?

ERRCS First Responder Handheld Radios

Emergencies can happen anywhere and at any time. In these situations, clear and quick communication is necessary for keeping everyone safe. Emergency responder radio communication systems (ERRCS) enable occupants in any part of a building to contact first responders when they need help in an emergency and allow those first responders to communicate effectively when they arrive.

If you have never heard of these types of systems, you’re in the right place. In this article, we will cover how emergency responder radio communications systems work and why they are vital to keeping building occupants safe.

How Does An ERRCS Work?

Emergency responders use special handheld radios that only communicate on protected public safety frequencies so they can communicate in real time and without interruption. These radio frequencies are different from the AM and FM frequencies we typically use to listen to sports and music.

An ERRCS (also known as a Public Safety DAS) picks up radio signals from a designated public safety frequency, and strengthens the signals so that emergency responders are never without radio contact.

The ERRCS uses a bi-directional amplifier (also known as a BDA) to boost signal strength in areas of a building that might not receive good signal coverage, such as stairwells or elevators.

The BDA works in two directions: incoming and outgoing. It amplifies signals from local emergency radio towers throughout a building, while also boosting outgoing radio signals from the radios of individual emergency responders.

In addition to BDAs, an ERRCS distributes signals throughout a building via a network of antennas and coaxial or fiber optic cables. 

Where Does An ERRCS Improve Radio Coverage?

An ERRCS improves signal coverage in a variety of settings. If first responders need to reach many people in specific areas, they might make use of an ERRCS to broadcast emergency announcements throughout stairwells, basements, parking garages, and elevators in a building.

However, an ERRCS can also reach especially isolated areas, such as mechanical or electrical rooms, security desks, fire command centers, and areas of refuge or shelter. These systems allow everyone to get the information they need to stay safe.

What Types of Buildings Need An ERRCS?

Typically, an ERRCS can be found in many public areas, such as healthcare facilities, residential and commercial buildings, schools, stadiums, and even houses of worship. Government buildings, prisons, and courthouses will also frequently utilize an ERRCS. Next time you go to a sporting event or big-box retailer, look for a series of antennas on top of the building or along the walls. That’s an ERRCS.

Learn MoreCover image for Safe Inside podcast, from Safe Buildings Coalition

The Safer Buildings Coalition has many great resources on ERRCSs, including this explainer post, and recently they even published an entire handbook dedicated to Emergency Responder Communications Enhancement Systems (ERCES), which you can check out here.
The handbook is definitely geared more towards industry readers, but is a valuable resource if you are trying to become an ERCES pro.

To learn more about ERRCS systems, distributed antenna systems, and some best practices for building safety, check out The Safe Inside Podcast, from the Safer Buildings Coalition.

Harris Communications is a proud member of the Safer Buildings Coalition!

Work With Harris Communications

Now that you know how emergency responder radio communications systems work, you know how vital they are to keeping building occupants safe, and how they can save lives in emergencies. If you want to work with the best ERRCS design team in the business, schedule a call with us to get the ball rolling.