With more than 5.6 million commercial buildings in the U.S., it is critical for commercial real estate building owners and landlords to provide a robust connectivity infrastructure that enables officials to respond in emergencies.
Among the top priorities, according to the Safer Buildings Coalition, is providing both first responders and occupants the capability to effectively communicate both inside and outside of the buildings, text or call 911 and receive mass notifications when response times are critical.
According to the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, an improvement of one minute for 911 response time can save 10,000 lives annually.
However, these critical life-saving needs are often unable to be met in both the modern and older buildings in cities across the country and around the globe due to heavy building materials such as concrete, glass and steel that block cellular signals.
The onus to provide a communications infrastructure that supports these needs is increasingly being placed on building owners as broadband communication providers are often unable to meet the needs for in-building cellular coverage.
In-Building Tech talked to ExteNet Systems, Inc. a provider communications infrastructure solutions and distributed networks (DNS), about the best practices for building owners.
“Municipalities have identified in-building as a weak area in response to public safety. While installing a system that takes care of fire and police department is great, it’s also critical to support that with a communications infrastructure that enables occupants and first responders to communicate,” said Jeff Alexander, senior vice president at ExteNet Systems.
“The first thing most people do is look at their cellphone to call 911,” said Alexander, who added that desk phones are hardly found in modern workplaces today.
One of the key take-home points for building owners is that more than half of the infrastructure required to upgrade cellular service is already achieved if they are planning to upgrade their public safety system inside of the building, said Alexander.
Three important things that every building owner should consider when installing or upgrading their emergency response communication systems are to ensure that they think of the entire communications ecosystem, align resource appropriately to accomplish their goals and consider the cost structure.
1. Consider your entire communications infrastructure
It’s important to think of your communications infrastructure as an entire ecosystem including wifi, radio frequencies, and cellular.
“The municipalities want you to think of their piece. However, when a major tenant considers renting in a multi-tenant office building, they think about whether multiple carriers are supported,” said Alexander.
2. Understand the resources required
Once an analysis of the entire communications ecosystems is complete, it’s essential for building owners to consider what kinds for resources are required such as IT expertise and staffing to complete to achieve their goals.
3. Consider all costs and options
Gain an in-depth understanding of how adding infrastructure will add to the cost of construction or renovations. If building owners are going to buy new technology, they should clearly assess and investigate costs and financing options. Today there are models where the building owner, third party providers and in very few cases a wireless provider may share the costs.
“A lot of the funding options are often a mixture between a third party and building owners, said Alexander. “The wireless carriers are funding these projects less and less.”
Fiber is key to future-proofing your buildings
The single most important thing a building owner can do to future-proof their building is to double down on the fiber, according to Alexander.
“Nothing is completely future proof. However, there things building owners can do to hedge on the future proofing of networks. The core of every network deployed has to do with fiber optic cabling,” said Alexander.
Fiber optic cables are the core medium that transport optical data signals and are the foundation for communication requirements. They facilitate the digital connectivity required for IoT devices and sensors, Wi-Fi, VOIP, cellular and cloud-based systems.
One of the resources available to building owners interested in future-proofing their commercial real estate properties is to leverage the expertise from advocacy organizations like the Safer Buildings Coalition, which work closely with both and municipalities and building owners to provide multiples perspectives in the topic.