FDNY Clarification: When ARCS Is Not Required

FDNY Clarification: When ARCS Is Not Required

By Andrew Pisani

FDNY recently clarified its requirements on whether an ARC (Auxiliary Radio Communication) System, or ARCS, must be installed in a building.

Since the adoption of the 2014 NYC Building Code, all buildings that exceed 75 feet in height have generally been required to install an ARC System. However, both the 2014 Building Code and the 2022 Building Code include the following exception: “Where it is determined by the Fire Department that a radio communication system is not required.”

But what does this mean? The FDNY issued a clarification in a bulletin dated October 24, 2022.

What Is ARCS and How Is It Used?

Inside buildings, firefighters’ portable radios can be limited in range, depending on a given building’s construction and materials.

An Auxiliary Radio Communication System (ARCS or “ARC System”) is a wireless, two-way communication system that enables radio communication within buildings where the design or materials limit portable radio signals or the size exceeds radio range. A base station transceiver in the lobby connects to a building-wide antenna system that facilitates firefighter communications, thus promoting firefighter safety.

ARCS Requirement – Exemptions & Waivers

New and existing buildings that would otherwise be required to install an ARCS (those taller than 75 feet) can be exempted if they meet all the following:

  • Building occupancy is Group R-1, R-2, or B.
  • The height of the highest roof surface is less than or equal to 150 feet (45.72 meters) above the lowest level of Fire Department vehicle access.
  • No more than one story is below grade.
  • Total square footage does not exceed 250,000 ft2 (23,225.8 m2).

FDNY can still issue a waiver from the ARCS requirement for any building that fails to meet the above conditions. To qualify for a waiver, the building must have a final Certificate of Occupancy issued by the DOB and a Letter of Approval for the fire alarm system. In addition, the building owner must retain a certified ARC System professional, who holds a Fire Department Company Certificate and Certificate of Fitness.

The ARC System professional must conduct a commissioning test to confirm that radio signal quality is acceptable in all areas of the building. Following a successful test, the professional prepares a commissioning test report, which is submitted as a Fire Alarm Variance application through the FDNY Business Portal. A Licensed Professional Engineer must oversee the commissioning test and submit a report confirming the findings of the ARC System Professional.

If the commissioning report is satisfactory, the FDNY Bureau of Operations will conduct a Delivered Audio Quality (DAQ) acceptance test to verify successful operation of portable radios within the building without an ARC System. At this point, FDNY will issue a letter granting the waiver.

Please contact Metropolis Group at 212.233.6344 for more information or if you have any questions.