Reliable blanket coverage is often taken for granted by anyone with a cell phone, but most people are unaware of a crucial and foundational aspect of connectivity: batteries. To clarify, this isn’t a discussion of whether an iPhone should or shouldn’t allow its user to replace a battery; this is about the overlooked networking components responsible for securing public safety across the United States.

For instance, if cellular towers are down due to a natural disaster, the battery life of public safety equipment becomes pivotal for not only critical communications between first responders, but the ability for individuals to call for help.

When all else fails, it is critical that batteries withstand, and must be built to last during catastrophic events, ranging from widespread hurricane flooding to blazing temperatures of wildfires. Each year, as requirements become more complex and higher expectations develop, engineering teams and manufacturers are challenged with enhancing public safety solutions to meet government officials’, first responders’, along with building owners’ increasing wants and needs.

According to B2B research company MarketsandMarkets’ Public Safety and Security Market Global Forecast Report, the public security market is expected to be worth $532.39 billion by 2022 as a consequence of smart city initiatives, growing trends of criminal activities, and terrorist attacks. The report highlights how the critical communication network solutions segment is estimated to hold the largest market share in the public safety and security market from 2017 to 2022. As public and private organizations upgrade their critical communication networking solutions over the next few years and more new buildings are constructed, the importance of public safety batteries will continue to grow with the expanding market segment.

When making decisions regarding public safety equipment investments or upgrades, there are some key factors to consider. For instance, in the United States, the International Fire Code (IFC) and National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) require newly constructed buildings with the space of 50,000 or 10,000 square feet below grade, to have a signal strength of -95 dBm, or better in designated “critical” areas such as elevators. Without the appropriate signal strength, buildings won’t be issued certificates of occupancy until the problem is fixed, which will lead to considerable additional costs. Building owners and general contractors should be aware of the codes beforehand, and make sure the equipment they install has the best battery, backup units, and is code-compliant.

The National Fire Alarm & Signaling Code (NFPA 72) offers guidance and requirements on what batteries should be able to handle, and building management should be aware of the following when purchasing or upgrading public safety equipment:

1. Batteries Should Last 12 to 24 Hours or Longer

If a building’s power is cut, batteries now have the capability to power public safety radio systems for more than 24 hours, and many wireless solution providers are working to extend the runtime. Power outages can happen for any given number of reasons such as severe weather, building fires, or even a hostage situation, and the longer the public safety radio systems can work, the better. NFPA 72 is the latest modern benchmark for emergency communications, systems, and the code has raised its standard for battery power backup to a required runtime of 24 hours.

2. Alarming Systems Can Now Share Greater Amounts of Information

Alarming systems are an incredibly important aspect of public safety batteries. Two key alarm inputs supported by NFPA-72 are low battery and charger fail indicators. However, more advanced batteries have the availability to provide more information than what is required about their inner workings. For instance, they can also share if the battery has been disconnected from the system, how fast the power is draining, and how much is left in the charge. These features are specifically helpful for public safety maintenance producers such as annual inspections and test regimens for backup operational functionality and capacity.

Battery installation is becoming more convenient. In addition to cost, a factor that often restricts public safety equipment decision making is limited space. The constraint on space in buildings and other venues for critical communication infrastructure deployments has always been a challenge for the telecommunications industry. Historically, if batteries were made to be more compact, they would lose a significant amount of backup runtime as well.

Today, manufacturers are working to solve this problem by creating batteries that are compact without jeopardizing any features. By scaling back the size of the equipment, the installations become easier and less expensive for companies to install. For instance, some batteries weigh more than 120 lb. The companies will not only have to pay to move the 120 lb equipment from the shipping dock to the designated location, but also spend more money on the hourly pay of the installer setting up the heavy product. Moreover, if the AHJ inspects the installation and does not like the chosen location, the company will have to pay to move the heavy equipment all over again, causing labor costs to rack up even more. This cumbersome procedure is why manufacturers are incentivized to create smaller, lighter weighing units. In addition to modifying the batteries themselves to make installations more convenient, some networking providers are adding wheels to their products.

Critical communication networking solutions and their backup power systems are necessary, both legally and from a moral standpoint. In the next few years, the critical communication industry will see abundant change due to technology advances and the increasing need for it; yet, despite the influx of change, public safety will continue to rely on batteries to ensure connectivity.