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"We have a Bi-Directional Antenna (BDA) or Directional Antenna System (DAS) being installed in our building, why do we also need a two-way communication system in the elevator landings?"

Although both systems are for in-building emergency communication, they are meeting different codes and being used by different individuals. The BDA or DAS communication systems are being used by emergency responders in the building to amplify the coverage of their two-way radio communicators. These radio enhancement systems are required under IFC-510 and the NFPA 72, Chapter 24.

Two-way communication systems located in the elevator landings are used by the general public and/or building occupants during an emergency so they can notify emergency services in the building as well as outside of the building that there is an issue. These two-way communication systems are meeting IBC section 1007.8 for two-way communication and NFPA 72, Chapter 24.


Exterior Area of Refuge graphic
"We are designing a building with two egress stairways.
One stairway is on a steep slope so
we are using an Exterior Area for Rescue Assistance.

Does this area need a two-way communication device?"
If you have an exterior area of assisted rescue you need a two-way communication device in that area. There is also code required signage at the door leading to the area and signage directing the person what to do during an emergency next to the call box.


"If multiple calls simultaneously come into the base station at the front desk, personnel can only take one call at a time. What happens to the other calls?"

The first call is the lead call and will show up on the Command Center screen. The other call buttons will light up for the other calls coming in. Once the first call is answered the second one will show on the screen with an option to merge the calls or put the first one on hold. This will continue for up to 10 calls.


"Is 2 hour rated cable required or is CMP (plenum) or CMR (riser-rated) cable acceptable?"

It would depend on the type of building. If the building has a level 2 or level 3 survivability the cable needs to have the same survivability rating and would require 2 hour fire-rated cable. If there is a 2 hour enclosure the cable can be pulled in, you could use a CMP or CMR cable in that 2 hour enclosure. If the cable needs to leave the 2 hour enclosure it would need to be 2 hour fire-rated from the enclosure out to the call boxes.


"What is the recommended time delay before a two-way emergency call system automatically dials out to 911?"

The code does not state a specific time frame, but 15-20 seconds is a standard duration before the call goes off-site. This can be adjusted in the field if an AHJ has a different requirement.


"If a building doesn’t have a Fire Command Center (FCC) area,
where should I install the base station?"
Base Station Locations

Code states that the base station should be in the entry or lobby way, the fire command center, or a location approved by the AHJ.

Typically in low rise applications we see the base station in the entry or lobby way, and in high rise settings we see the base station located in the FCC.



"Is it possible to have three Command Center locations
in the same building servicing the same Call Boxes?"

Yes, we have multiple Command Centers on many of our projects. Each Command Center would need a single pair of wires from the Distribution Module to each Command Center.


"Can a two-way communication system dial a 24/7 security desk in the building rather than a remote monitoring station?"

If the building has a 24/7 security desk that can monitor the two-way communication system you would not need it to call off-site.


"What is the difference between an "Area of Rescue Assistance" and an "Area of Refuge?"


"Area of Rescue Assistance" was the original name used by the ADA but has now become a dated term. The NFPA and IBC now refer to these as "Areas of Refuge". Many of our current projects use the term "Elevator Landing Emergency Communication System" or "Two-Way Communication System" when referring to the communication.
Area of Refuge, Area of Rescue and Emergency Communication  signs


"In a building with less than 200 people, can an Area of Refuge be outside an exterior egress on a sidewalk with stairs going to the parking lot?"

If the building has an elevator landing you would typically have the two-way communication located there. If you had an exterior area of assisted rescue you could have the two-way communication located there, and if you had less than 200 people on that given floor/level you would only need one Call Box.


"Are your flush mount call box back boxes fire-rated? If not, what is the recommended approach?”

Our back boxes are not fire-rated. If you are installing in a fire rated wall you can either use surface mount call boxes instead, or you can apply putty pads to the flush mount call boxes.


"We have a single-story project that has an Exterior Area of Assisted Rescue at the level of exit discharge. The exterior stair landing is approximately 3-6” above grade.
Do we need a two-way communication system?"
If there are stairs at the landing you need a two-way communication system. A handicapped person would be stranded on the landing during an emergency as they are not able to use the stairs.


"Is an Area of Refuge required
in a multi-story building that has a 24 hour supervised sprinkler system?"

Area of Refuge in a multi story building

This is a question we hear often.

Referencing IBC 1007 gives you the information needed to answer this common question.

If a building has a supervised sprinkler system, you do not need a physical area for an Area of Refuge in the stairwell because the entire floor would be considered an Area of Refuge at that point.

IBC 1007.3 reads, "Stairways shall either incorporate an Area of Refuge within an enlarged floor level landing or shall be assessed from an Area of Refuge".

The first exception listed states Areas of Refuge are not required at stairways in buildings equipped throughout by an automatic sprinkler system.
Although you would not need the physical Areas of Refuge in this situation, the building still requires a Two-Way Communication System in the elevator landings to meet IBC 1007.8 requirements. 1007.8 reads, "A Two-Way Communication System shall be provided at the elevator landing on each accessible floor that is one or more stories above or below the story of exit discharge".

To summarize, if any building has a supervised sprinkler system with no means of egress out of the building (includes two story buildings or larger, and one story buildings with basements that have no means of egress) it would require Two-Way Communication in the elevator landing on these levels. The building would not require the physical “Area of Refuge” in the stairwells because of the supervised sprinkler system in the facility.


"Area of Rescue Assistance Systems provided under IBC 2009 (1007.6.3/1007.8) and also referenced in NFPA 72 (24.5.3) are required to comply with the pathway survivability described in 24.3.5.7.
Where level 2 survivability is achieved using 2-hour fire rated cable (Mineral Insulated Cable), is it compatible for use with any of your systems?
I believe the smallest MI cable available is 18 gauge."
Refuge Wire Communication Cable

All of our systems are used on a regular basis not only with CI & MI cable but also with 18 gauge. We recommend 22 or 24 gauge because it is readily available and it is easier to make the connections. With that being said, 18 gauge will still work great with our systems.


"If a building does not have a 24 hour attended area, where would an Area of Refuge Call Box dial?
Does the building owner have to provide a monitoring service or can the phone just dial 911 or the fire department?"
Call Boxes typically call 911

IBC 1007.8 states that the Call Box shall call a remote monitoring location or 911 if the Base Station is not manned 24/7. Typically, we see it call remote monitoring locations but occasionally will see it go to 911.


"Are there minimum dB requirements for audible signals at the Two-Way Communication stations? If so, can you please clarify this decibel level, and the code citation for this requirement?"

Below is a reference from NFPA Chapter 24 from the 2010 Code. There is no requirement, just a suggestion. The decibel level depends on the environment that the stations are in.

"The ECS system designer cannot control all of these factors, but he or she must design the system to compensate for those factors not under his or her control. The designer must address background noise or ‘ambient noise levels’ as part of the design. In order for the system to meet the intelligibility goals, the system must have an adequate signal-to-noise ratio. If the system provides a speech signal at least 15 dB higher than the ambient noise level, this will minimize the intelligibility loss from the ambient noise levels."


"Does the installation of an Area of Refuge system require any special certifications? I have a feeling that it falls under Life Safety and requires a Fire Alarm Installation License, but I figured that I'd ask the Experts."

We sell through Low Voltage Contractors all over the country. Typically, fire guys are our larger volume dealers and it really depends on the municipality on how they want the system submitted. It is best to reach out to the AHJs on your projects (Fire Marshal). Ask them if they have a specific form, if it is part of the fire permit, or if it is under the life safety aspect. It seems to be different from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.


"The 2015 IBC 1009.8 Exception 5 states that Two-Way Communication Systems are not required at the landing serving a private residence elevator.
I am working on a 4 story, 55 unit apartment building and the contractor says a system is not needed because the elevator serves private residences.
Do you have any insight as to the intent of Exception 5?"

The 2015 IBC 1009.8 Exception 5 is referencing a multi-story, single family home. An elevator in an apartment building or condominium is considered a public use elevator, so a Two-Way Communication System is required.


"I have a customer pushing back on using a RATH® Two-Way Communication System because they feel that a product they use in other locations of their facilities can accomplish the same thing. Can you please give me some reasons why an Emergency Intercom will not work for an Elevator Landing Two-Way Communication application?"

Your customer’s existing intercom product won’t be IBC or NFPA code compliant if it does not meet the following criteria:
  • Must meet the NFPA 72 requirement for battery back-up
  • Must meet the NFPA 72 requirement for supervision
  • If the building is level 2 or 3 survivability, 2 hour rated cable is required for the application
  • A location message must play after the button is pushed

  • We guarantee that our Area of Refuge and Two-Way Communication Systems are fully code compliant.