It may look like there are 5 easy steps to have the FDNY to approve your ARCS project, but these steps are not necessarily simple if you never experienced a construction project involved with the FDNY; particularly when it requires a radio technology.
1. Site Survey
The first and critical aspect of a construction project that involves buildings is to get familiar with the property you are going to evaluate and propose your auxiliary radio communication system. It is very important to perform a site visit. It is even recommended to verify the accurate address of the property, number of floors including bellow ground (Cellar or basement), and any upper floors including roof, bulkhead, or MER.
A site survey is your first stage of designing the system, you have to set expectations with the landlord and make the definition of where all the main ARCS elements are going to take place in the property including the FDNY ARCS console or Dedicated Radio Console – DRC.
It is critical to know the Square Footage and the building size to have a successful site evaluation. This information would lead to successful building plans and submittals.
This information will have to appear on the ARCS Notes page (usually the first page) of the CD / ARCS plans you will submit for approval. The FDNY wants to know this value/number so they can plan themselves with the right amount of resources/inspectors to be sent on-site to perform their Acceptance Test Procedures – ATP before they will grant you the Letter of Acceptance for the system.
The rule of thumb for determining the right room for the NEMA4 cabinet installation is that it should be 2 hours fire rated as per FDNY requirements. It also has to be determined on the location of the riser/s if it will be in a telecom closet or stairwell, again as per the FDNY requirements any cabling and main ARCS infrastructure must be installed in 2 hours fire rated areas.
In this early stage of the project, you should plan on what design and radio measurement tools you are going to use. The most popular in-building wireless design software is the iBwave (desktop software) and field measurement instrument is any portable Spectrum Analyzer or scanner that has mapping capabilities that will allow the RF technician to upload the building floor plans into his measuring instrument and later on to record the radio signal strength on the inserted map in form of heat maps that show the coverage quality for each surveyed area in the building.
Any survey or design activity is required by the FDNY to be performed by ARCS certified personnel – the FDNY requires that the testing of ARC systems be supervised by a person holding a Fire Department license, known as a Certificate of Fitness – B03, who knows the New York City Building Code, Fire Code, and Fire Department rule standards that apply to ARC systems.
The rule reflects the Fire Code requires that this person hold a General Radiotelephone Operator License issued by the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The operation of the system for maintenance and testing purposes must be under the supervision of a certificate of fitness holder, and the system must be operated and maintained in compliance with the requirements for ARC systems set forth in the rule. The B03 holder has to work for a company that holds an ARCS certificate license while one of the B03 certificate holders is registered as a senior (President / GM / CEO / CTO …) in this company.
2. Design & Engineering of ARCS
It is imperative to work with experienced RF engineers that are familiar with the latest DOB and FDNY codes and Public Safety (P.S) Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS). There are a small number of RF engineers that acquired the relevant experience working on the public safety DAS project as the World Trade Center compound (Freedom tower – T1, Tower 4, Tower 7, Tower 3, and the Oculus).
After the site survey (first stage of design), the RF – ARCS engineer brings all the data he collected on-site and is modeling the property/building in his design tool, creating the entire building with the design software, defining the type-materials of the walls (Drywall, cedar block, concrete), type-materials of floors, type materials of doors, etc… All of these parameters will eventually affect the software with the link budget (RF power chain values) calculations and will make the RF Engineer decide on how many ARCS antennas he will need to designate and where to install them in the building.
At least 80% of the profit in the ARCS project depends on how efficient the project design was, depending on the accurate site survey and modeling the project with the proper design-prediction tool. Just to give a sense of a timeline for 8 floors (80,000 sf) building it may take around 2 days of planning, for 20 floors building (200,000 sf) it may take around 3 days of planning.
3. How to decide for your ARCS equipment manufacturer
It is crucial to choose the right ARCS vendor, the one that is fulfilling all FCC and FDNY requirements. The equipment that you are planning to purchase has to be FCC certified. By the federal law, any wireless device that is intended to be used in the USA has to go through all the necessary testing and approval FCC regulations, also any part of the ARCS system as splitters and antennas must have the FCC approval under the same license certificate to be distributed in the USA.
FDNY also requires that all ARCS participating element as Coax cables, Antennas, Splitters, connectors, and even the equipment cabinet has to be UL approved. Detailed specification and National Recognized Test Laboratory (NRTL) listing details for all devices, cables, and equipment. Another important subject to pay your attention when you are looking for the right ARCS manufacturer is that the chosen
ARCS equipment is respecting and adheres with all next regulations:
- NFPA 72 appendix Q
- NFPA 1221
- FC 511, section 917 of the building code
- 3 RCNY 511-01 and applicable technical criteria.
Another important point is to choose equipment that has the capability of self-test, monitor, and report on 6 main system alarms.
- LOW BATTERY
- ROOM WATER LEAK
- GENERAL FAULT
- VSWR ANTENNA FAULT
- TAMPER SWITCH
Your equipment vendor should also provide all the necessary add on and accessory parts as rack cabinet that has at least 4’’ height platform above the floor, charger and batteries as a backup power source for your ARCS. The battery backup has to be capable of supervisory and operation for 24 hours, followed by full load operation for 6 hours as per NYC electrical code section 760.41.
4. ARCS Installation
Your installer has to be a Master Electrician Certified by NYC, to install auxiliary radio communication system. The Master Electrician or Electrical Contractor as most of us know them by EC should be knowledgeable with the NYC FC 511, section 917 of the building code, Electrical code.
The EC should also be experienced with low voltage DAS / Wireless projects with the knowledge of installing and testing coax cables. At the end of the install session the EC has to provide all coax cables & jumpers Acceptance Test Reports – ATR showing the cables were installed successfully. The EC should test the cables with a master site (Anritsu) sweep tester instrument or equivalent.
5. Final inspection by FDNY
Before final inspection commences, you need to successfully commission the system by the B03 certificate holder. During the ARCS commission by B03 certificate holder will test the system based on FDNY’s ARCS commissioning protocol – procedures.
Upon review and acceptance of the submission, an acceptance letter of the Commissioning Test Report will be issued by the Technology Management Fire Alarm Plan Examination Unit. Once acceptance letter of the Commissioning Test Report was received it is required to submit the next documentation to the Fire Alarm Inspection Unit (FAIU) in FDNY:
- A request for inspection from the Fire Alarm Inspection Unit (FAIU) (B-45 form)
- An electrical contractors application (A-433 form) Page 3 of 3
- Original Approved drawings (24”x36” size)
- Technology Management Commissioning Test Report Acceptance Letter
- Acceptance Test:
FDNY will conduct a Delivered Audio Quality (DAQ) test and visual inspection for the quality of the installation and verification that the EC installed the ARCS based on the approved plans (were submitted at the first stage). After successful completion of the inspection and acceptance test, a Letter of Approval (LOA) will be issued for the complete ARC System and the City agreement authorizing the use of FDNY frequencies for ARC system testing will remain in effect.
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