Public Safety & First Responders: DAS in Action

June 16, 2014 at 12:53 pm  •  Posted in das  •  2 Comments

As I mentioned in my previous blog post, Distributed Antenna Systems: DAS in a Nutshell, today’s wireless users expect uninterrupted communication everywhere they go, from the office, to the elevator, and everything in between. While many Americans want 24/7 coverage, some rely on it. First responders need reliable radio and cell phone coverage at all times and in all locations to keep the public safe.
In an emergency, a well-functioning Distributed Antenna System (DAS) could be the difference between lives saved vs. lives lost. Cellular service for communication with building occupants is also critical. During a catastrophe, a phone call or mass notification via text message could save lives.

Article Contents:

In this blog post, I’ll discuss how DAS helps first responders keep the public safe. I’ll go over the problem of interoperability, and discuss building code requirements and ordinances around DAS that every building contractor, owner, risk manager,and facility manager should know.

The Problem of Interoperability

Police, firefighters, and other first responders traditionally communicated over dedicated radio frequencies specific to their agency. These frequencies didn’t allow for communication across agencies. Each type of first responder had their own specific frequency ranges that varied across cities, counties, and states. If both police and firefighters were at the scene together, they often could not talk to each other over their radios.

Communication within a building was ideal, but not always possible. DAS could always carry public safety frequencies, but covering all the possible frequencies that could be used during an emergency wasn’t. Due to multiple agencies responding in mutual aid from neighboring communities, it was difficult and impractical to cover all the bases.

These issues became apparent in the wake of 9/11, when firefighters were unable to communicate with command and control, with police, and each other. Evacuating the buildings was made that much more difficult as a result. In response, the U.S. government enacted interoperability requirements for first responders, legally requiring shared common frequencies for intercommunication. DAS systems could now carry these specific frequencies inside buildings, allowing first responders to communicate amongst themselves.

Building Code Requirements

Without DAS, communication with the outside world and within a building would be problematic for first responders. Buildings can act as a shield, limiting reception of outside signals. The end-result is blocked internal and external communication. There are a number of factors that affect communication, including interference within a building, building construction materials such as Low-E glass or concrete, and proximity to a radio or cellular tower.

After 9/11, America tightened up on security, and for good reason. These concerns resulted in local ordinances and building codes for heightened public safety. Current IFC (International Fire Code) and IBC (International Building Code) require benchmarking to prove sufficient signal or an operational in-building DAS system. Two codes/standards that require first responder communications are International Fire Code Section 510.1 Appendix J and the National Fire Protection Association 72-2010 Chapter 24. This code outlines requirements for DAS systems around issues like coverage, survivability of the system, signal quality, license, and power backup. During the building design phase, architects, builders, and developers must adhere to codes and standards to obtain construction plan approval prior to final inspection. These codes are enforced through the state or local AHJ (Authority Having Jurisdiction).

Designing a DAS system is a complex task that requires an understanding of building construction, signal strength, signal quality and interference issues, among others. To ensure that everything runs smoothly, bringing on a DAS expert from the get-go is highly recommended.

The Graybar Advantage

Graybar has the products, people, and capabilities needed to design, deploy, and maintain state-of-the-art Distributed Antenna Systems. Graybar acts as a matchmaker, working behind the scenes to connect the contractors and integrators who provide turn-key professional services.


Graybar offers value-added financing to customers interested in acquiring a Distributed Antenna System. If you have specific questions about DAS, feel free to get in touch with me directly.

Take-Home Lesson

To sum it all up, Distributed Antenna Systems open up wireless coverage within and between structures, allowing cell phones and radios to function in emergencies. DAS is a must-have for greater public safety, and smart contractors are wise to the building codes and requirements around DAS.

About The Author
Eric Toenjes
Eric Toenjes, Business Development Manager, DAS

Before Graybar, Eric spent over 11 years working within sales and account management for companies like Sprint and Nextel Communications, spear-heading an 11-state region for DAS sales to enterprise and major cellular carrier accounts. Eric understands that the ubiquitous in-building wireless network is a
requirement of every commercial building and campus. As Business Development Manager (DAS) at Graybar, Eric works diligently to foster strategic partnerships and enable delivery of outstanding in-building wireless networks for Graybar’s customers.


Sources & Credits

Wireless Design & Development Wireless Communication & DAS Transmission Changes Higher Education & Healthcare Environments





  1. Ralph Hirsch / April 15, 2015 at 7:42 pm / Reply

    Why isn’t Graybar carrying our DAS antennas? Take a look at our website and see the size and other advantages. Then, if you want, give me a call at 617-510-6700.

    • Graybar / April 17, 2015 at 7:19 pm / Reply

      Thank you for commenting. Potential manufacturers who want to distribute through Graybar can fill out a form on this website.

      – Todd

Leave a Reply