March 19, 2021

California Fire Code Section 510: What is it, and what does it mean for California Schools?


Wildfires in California are a growing threat, with a 7,874 five-year average of fires threatening the safety of people and their property. Since the 2002-2003 school year, wildfires have been responsible for 21,442 school closures across the state. California’s ever-present threat of fires makes it vital for structures to be properly prepared for an emergency. 

During a fire, firefighters rely on Emergency Responder Radio Coverage Systems (ERRCS) to coordinate their on-site strategies. ERRCS bands include very high frequency (VHF), ultra high frequency (UHF), 800 MHz National Public Safety Planning Advisory Committee (NPSPAC) and 700/800MHz, which are unique to the radio systems used by police, ems, and fire departments. This means that buildings and building materials must not interfere with the bands in order to ensure first responder communication and public safety as a whole.  

On January 1, 2021, California began enforcing Fire Code Section 510, which creates new code compliance requirements for new buildings in school and community college districts. The code ensures that all new buildings, meeting at least one of its certain conditions, must be built to comply with ERRCS. These conditions include buildings that are more than three stories above grade plane, have 30,000 square feet or more, a basement of 5,000 square feet or more, and where radio signal is not strong enough, or where required by local authority having jurisdiction (AHJs).

On average a school is 118,500 square feet, so what does this mean for schools in the state? Fire Code Section 510 enforcement means that all new education structures in the state must have signal strength of -95dBm or Delivered Audio Quality(DAQ) of 3.0 or higher, in 99% of the critical coverage areas and 95% of the general coverage areas of the building. Critical areas of the building include: emergency command centers, fire pump rooms, stairs, exit passageways, and elevator lobbies. New building plans meeting building size requirements for schools and community colleges will not be approved if radio coverage requirements are not met.

In a state that constantly battles the threat of dangerous fires, California schools need to be prepared for the unthinkable. Ultimately, the new enforcement of Fire Code Section 510 will ensure buildings are created with public safety communication at the forefront. It ensures that first responders will be able to act swiftly in an emergency to keep students, teachers, and staff safe. 

To learn more about ADRF’s ERRCS solutions, visit