Are you renovating an existing building or planning for new construction?

If so, you should be aware of some new public safety requirements you need to meet before a Certificate of Occupancy will be issued in many Maryland counties. The unfortunate increase in emergency situations in larger public venues has drawn more attention to this need.

The requirements refer to the need for public safety radios to work for first responders (police, fire, rescue, etc.). These first responders must have radio contact inside the building during emergencies. Older building construction, and now the newer, energy-efficient LEED-certified buildings are not friendly to radio signals, which is why your cell phones may not work well. This poor coverage also translates to the public safety radio transmission frequencies.

A perfect example of this issue is within the University of Baltimore’s John and Frances Angelos Law Center, a beautifully designed, LEED Platinum-certified building in Baltimore. The coating on the windows that makes it energy-efficient actually blocks the public safety radio signals. To counter this, the university installed a Distributed Antenna System (DAS) to enhance the signal. First responder radios now work in every part of the building.

Montgomery County, Baltimore County, Baltimore City and Anne Arundel County have recently passed ordinances that specifically state buildings must pass a test showing that public safety frequency signals have sufficient strength in 95% of the building, with particular attention paid to stairwells and other public areas. Many other jurisdictions are discussing similar ordinances.

A “grid test” can be performed in your building to determine the signal strength and whether or not you should be concerned. Each building is different from a radio signal perspective, so each design solution will be specific to the building.

These days, safety is top of mind for all building owners and managers. Reliable communication is the first concern for first responders in an emergency situation. Take the time now to evaluate your situation and the options open to you.