1. #1
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    Default Building Repeaters

    Is anyone familiar with building codes or ordinances that require Type I, II, & III commercial buildings to install a fixed site repeater to aid in 800 Mhz radio communications. If so, how do they work?

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    I have seen some requirements - but with new FCC regulations the placement of in building repeaters may really be stalled.

    Broadband repeaters, ie, ones that will work across the 800 mhz
    spectrum, doing both public safety, cellular, etc, are pretty much
    the norm, and interpetation of the new FCC ruling tends to make the
    industry feel that if you repeat any of the services, you have to get
    permission from all of the 800 Mhz users in that area.

    Even though it would help all of them, it will be a nightmare.

    There are also a number of technical issues in doing it RIGHT....

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    I have not researched enough to know of the technical issues. We have a poorly designed 800 system and our safety committee is exploring the building code option to improve coverage in newly constructed buildings. Just putting feelers out there to see if it is a worh while project.

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    Our local communication center director tried to get the individual municipalities to enact such requirements. The dispatch advisoy board asked for it to be sent to the state as a new law. It would not make it locally as all the towns around are competing for new big box stores and business and don't want to be the ones who are more difficult. We've found the big box stores prevent our crews from speaking directly to dispatch on portable.

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    Just keeping it up top

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    You might consider a passive repeater. Many radio shops will try to tell you that they don't work, but that is usually due to inproper installation. Paging companies have used them forever.

    Cheap too.

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    Passive repeaters CAN work when installed and designed properly. In fact, for what little it costs, it is somewhat of a miracle. However, it is not going to ALWAYS be the solution to every building. It is limited to what i can do. You may have no choice but to go active.

    And lets not forget, not everyone is 800Mhz. VHF and UHF have just as much trouble getting in and out of these buildings. Personally, I say screw the cell carriers. If the building is on fire with people trapped, I couldn't give a rats behind about cell phones. I want my portable radio to work.

    I do believe that the owner should be responsible for making active repeaters part of new construction if needed... however we all know how far that will go.
    Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.

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    Can you explain the passive repeater concept?

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    It's basically 2 antennas connected together with no amplification between them.

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    Randy, there were some pretty major problems with the new system the Victoria Emergency Services went to a few years ago. At one point they had virtually no communications within any building via portable radio. As I recall (its been a while now) the Fire and Police Chiefs got together and purchased the Canadian equal to NEXTEL for their officers. There was also talk of adding portable (attached to truck) repeaters or possibly to the affected buildings.

    I've been out of touch with the real news back home, especially on this topic. Jenn or Sheri might have something more up-to-date and accurate.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ladder5B
    Can you explain the passive repeater concept?
    High gain directional antenna outside pointed at the nearest radio tower.
    Antenna inside the building or 'leaky coax' throughout the building
    High quality, low loss coax cable between the two.

    Basicly, it gives the inside and outside signals a path to get in and out. It has to be designed very carefully or it won't work. Active means there is a bi-directional amplifier between the two antennas to boost the signal and filter it.
    Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.

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    I assume the "active" system is more money. How much? Is there a big performance advantage of the active system?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ladder5B
    I assume the "active" system is more money. How much? Is there a big performance advantage of the active system?

    Yes. Lots. Yes.

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    The passive repeater has been pretty well described. You can do them in any frequency range, BUT, the antennas need to be tuned as close as possible to the frequencies in use.

    As has been pointed out, they are not a cure all, but then again,
    NOTHING is. Active amps have plenty of their own issues.

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    Does anyone else have experience with building code that require active or passive repeaters?

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    Default Radio Options

    There are several options to improve inbuilding communicatons. Each has advantages and disadvantages. Solving all the problems in a city will probably involve multiple solutions.

    The two basic categories are inbuilding treatments or exterior devices. The main advantage to inbuilding systems is that they can be designed to provide excellent coverage in all areas of the building. The two main disadvantages are the cost (especially if the building is already constructed) and availability during an actual fire, collapse or extended power outage.

    Exterior devices are some form of mobile repeater. Their advantages are that they are available for all structures, and they are available for all building conditions (fire, collapse, cut power). There is also redundency as multiple units are typically at a scene. Disadvantages are that very large structures may require correct vehicle positioning, directional antennas, or even an antenna on a tripod, a separate freqeuncy and the associated channel changing.

    Back to inbuilding options. Passive repeaters have been discussed. They are typically of limited use. Active systems are either broadband BDAs or inbuilding repeaters. BDAs installations are typically expensive due to the cost of running the leaky cable (essentially a giant antenna network that runs all over the building) but they are great solutions for buildings with lots of traffic, and many different types of uses. A courthouse would be an example with several types of police users, court security, EMS and Fire all possibly operating at the same time. Because BDAs are working on the same frequencies as the radio system, there is no need for the use to change channels.

    For fire, a more cost effective solution may to use an inbuilding repeater. These are single channel units which may, or may not, be connected to a mobile - enabling the users to communicate with the network. Due to the higher power and better receiver sensitivity, an inbuilding repeater will generally require a fraction of the antenna network used with a BDA. Typically these repeaters are for fire deparment use only and are activated either with a fire key or from dispatch. As with the mobile repeater, users will have to switch channels (off the network) to use the inbuilding repeater.

    For something in between a mobile and inbuilding repeater. There is the concept of an "RF standpipe". This is just an antenna run into the building and terminated in a box. The fire department connects one of their mobile or portable repeaters to this connection when needed. Should the in building antenna be unavailable, the department reverts to using an external antenna.

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    Default Signal boosters

    I have attached a Word file that discusses the issue of using signal boosters in buildings. I expect to see a code change submittal on this subject for the next edition of the International Building Code and International Fire Code.
    Attached Files Attached Files

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    Quote Originally Posted by nmfire
    I do believe that the owner should be responsible for making active repeaters part of new construction if needed... however we all know how far that will go.
    Pretty easy to fix in my opinion. Ask the building owner if they want customer service(fire protection/life safety). If they say yes, tell them they NEED to install a repeater for the building. If they say no, tell them the FD will do everything that is possible to save your employees/building...just from the OUTSIDE!!

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