BDA systems – otherwise known as bi-directional amplifier systems – have emerged as critical, life-saving technology throughout the last several decades as architecture and construction practices have evolved. Building materials like concrete and metal offer high environmental performance and excellent occupant comfort levels but often reduce or block the radio frequencies’ strength that connects first responders with emergency personnel and people trapped inside a structure during an emergency. The BDA system promises robust and reliable radio coverage even for the largest buildings with many of these frequency-blocking materials.
The system consists of a rooftop antenna, a signal booster (BOA), and a group of antennas known as Distributed Antenna System or DAS. When these components are customized according to a specific building layout and function, they significantly improve first responders’ efficiency and effectiveness.
Is a BDA System Right For My Property?
Not all buildings require BDA systems, nor do they need them to assure the health and safety of building occupants in the event of an emergency. Florida health and safety codes mandate that all new and existing high-rise buildings must have a minimum radio signal strength for public safety communication systems.
To determine whether a BDA system is appropriate for your building, qualified fire safety and system professionals must perform a BDA inspection, also commonly referred to as a radio signal survey.
BDA Inspection Steps
The process of a radio signal survey is grounded in the study of a project building, an onsite visit to find handheld radio frequency readings, and communication with the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) to ensure that every step taken complies with local ordinances. A BDA survey is simple and convenient for property owners and certifies that their buildings are up to code and outfitted with critical life-saving technology tailored to its floor plan and construction.
Property owners and managers can expect the following steps to be taken by a certified contractor such as CFC to complete a radio signal survey:
1) Check with local authorities to see if a permit is required.
2) Study a building’s blueprints. Map out a grid system over the property plans with a minimum of 20’X20’ squares to identify the building’s critical areas and organize the floor plan in a way that provides for thorough, distributed reading locations.
3 ) Contact the county and have them provide the required frequencies used in that area by first responders.
4) Schedule with the customer access to the building and take a minimum of one reading with a spectrum analyzer in each square of the grid layout and each critical area.
5) Mark the readings on the plans, noting the weather conditions and any other factors that may affect the readings.
6) Research the construction of the building and transfer all readings from the print to an electronic format.
7) Deliver the report along with the marked-up set of prints to the end-user.
8) If a permit was required, provide the results to the AHJ.
Some BDA inspection findings may show that a property’s fire safety systems are in working order, and no action is necessary. Other results may indicate that a BDA system will verify that the building complies with Florida policies and radically improve the emergency response process. The NFPA 72 requirements are as follows:
- Minimum signal strength of -95dbm available in 90% of the area of each floor (inbound).
- Critical areas such as fire command centers, fire pump rooms, exit stairs and passageways, elevator lobbies and other areas deemed critical by the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) shall be provided with 99% floor area radio coverage.
- Buildings which cannot meet the criteria shall install an amplifier (BDA) or other system to meet the requirements of the Minimum Required Signal Strength policy.
If the survey reveals that your property does not meet the above code requirements, we will work with you to design an individualized solution that adjusts all system components according to your project’s specific materials, scale, and occupant constraints. This process maximizes the radio frequency strength and provides building owners and occupants the peace of mind they deserve.
CFC: Experience and Expertise with BDA Inspections & Installations
As a veteran-owned fire safety company with more than 40 years of experience keeping our vibrant Florida community safe, the CFC team is here to help determine what the next steps are for you and your property. Whether that’s a BDA system or any number of other fire safety solutions, we promise to protect your building and wellbeing and treat your emergency as if it were our own.