BDA and ERCES Systems

BDA and ERCES Systems

By Brad Higdon / Published May 2020

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Have you, as a property manager or building owner, been required to provide a radio signal survey for first responders?  Why is this being required? What is the impact to you?

     In the case of a medical, fire, or police emergency, the first responders may not have clear communication with dispatch or the local hospital inside a building.  This BDA/ERCES system will provide signal throughout a property for the most reliable communication at all times.  It’s like having good cellular coverage when you need it most.

     A BDA System, also known as Bi-Directional Amplifiers or Emergency Radio Communication Enhancement System (ERCES), is an in-building radio antenna system required by the Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) which provides a continuous communication path for Public Safety Radio Systems for first responders. These systems must be compatible with all required frequencies assigned by AHJ in the following areas. 

     Ninety-nine percent coverage is required in critical areas, such as the following:

  • Command center
  • Elevator lobbies
  • Fire pump room
  • Exit stairs
  • Exit passageway
  • Standpipe/firehose cabinets

     Ninety percent coverage is required in general building areas, such as the following:

  • Parking garages
  • Recreational rooms
  • Residential units
  • Elevator room
  • Dumpster room
  • All other areas required by the local authorities

     Upon requesting a survey for your property from a local provider, you can expect the provider to show up on site with an electronic radio device to measure signal strength in the above-mentioned critical areas. If any of the critical areas do not comply with the minimum signal strength, the next step will be obtaining a complete radio signal analysis survey.  The initial survey is typically performed at no charge; however, a complete radio signal analysis of the entire property would have an estimated cost.  Survey requirements may vary by jurisdiction.  Check with your local authorities for minimum survey and documentation requirements, as well as specifically approved components.  They may recommend little or no action to be taken if your coverage is acceptable and projected to be adequate in the future. 

     The cost of these systems will vary based on several factors: structure type, building materials, structural changes needed for equipment protection, location from nearest radio repeater, connection to fire alarm system if required, equipment requirement, local authorities’ additional requirements, and many other factors. 

     The cost of these systems will include these elements:

  • Radio Signal Analysis Survey—Survey the facility to demonstrate the necessity of an in-building solution, including determining signal strength throughout the structure in a grid-like pattern and engineering of complete design and components, for the purpose of submitting documents to AHJ (for permitting or estimating). Range: $500 to several thousand dollars*
  • Installation—All designed electronic components will be installed as per design in the structure, including electrical requirements, structural requirements, and AHJ requirements. This could impact many areas of the building or only a portion of the building through the installation process, depending on devices on the roof and grounding requirements, square footage for equipment and hardware to be installed, and fire rating compliance. Acceptance testing will be required by AHJ. The purpose of the required acceptance test is to verify if the in-building solution complies with the design criteria established. Range: $5,000 and up*
  • Service Contract—Building owners are responsible to have in place a service contract with a qualified company for technical maintenance, repair, operation, and troubleshooting, in the event of radio interference involving the in-building radio coverage product. Contracts may be all-inclusive or as simple as responding service and time and material billing. Range: $500 and up/year*
  • Annual/Five-Year Inspection—Your system must be inspected and certified by a qualified individual or company to comply with local and state requirements. This test may include function testing, visual inspection, radio signal level verification, and reports that should be provided to the building owner and AHJ if requested. This cost can be included in your service contract. Range: $1,000 and up/year*

     *Prices shown are based on current market trends.  Please take into consideration, prices may vary based on size of property, equipment manufacturer, type of technology installed, and additional inspection requirements by AHJ.

     As a building owner or representative your responsibilities include the following:

  • Keep records of all documents, including as-built documentation, system documents, technical manuals, all required RF signal readings upon inspection, diagrams showing equipment placing and routing for coax cable, antennas, fiber-optic connections, and AC power source.
  • Maintain service contract provided by a qualified vendor for response, maintenance, repair, and operation.
  • Provide the contract information of the system maintenance contractor to the AHJ, so the entity can work directly with the vendor in case of troubleshooting due to radio interference event.
  • Provide AHJ continued access to the facility for the purpose of testing of the public safety radio signal.

Photo courtesy of Bass-United

    This information should clear up some of the myths floating around poolside or the water cooler and may provide some insight of upcoming code requirements in your area.  We’ve all thought, “Is this really necessary?” or “Why now?”   For many years, first responders have been handicapped due to the inability to communicate with each other. The first thing that comes to mind is the World Trade Center, where hundreds of firefighters and first responders could not communicate and receive instructions, ultimately losing their lives.  And, in the event of an active shooter, first responders need thorough and accurate information immediately to minimize the loss of life.  These are examples of terror, but this same need for clear communication is necessary while responding to fires, 911 calls, etc. The financial impact versus the potential loss of life is immeasurable.  These radio systems could save seconds and therefore save lives, as well as thousands of dollars in property damage.

     In this cost-conscious world and budget-driven environment, it would be beneficial to reach out to your local BDA provider for a free survey and estimate to determine if the current radio signal is compliant.  This number can be used for budgeting your reserves and capital improvements. Be prepared.  In many cases, while planning building improvements, this may be a requirement during your permitting process.

     This radio system enhancement, in addition to your current fire alarm, fire sprinkler, and security systems, will increase your overall protection while protecting our first responders and visitors. 

Brad Higdon


     Bass-United began in 1977, and as a family-owned life safety provider for more than 40 years, we carry the highest accreditations in the industry. We continually deliver the solutions customers count on to protect their people and property. Our expertise and experience have afforded us the opportunity to install and maintain all types of systems including fire alarms, security alarms, fire sprinklers, access control, CCTV systems, and intercoms. We specialize in sales, installation, monitoring, and maintenance. You can count on us to provide you with confidence, competitive pricing, prompt service, and friendly staff. For more information on Bass-United, call (954) 785-7800 or visit