by Scott Thompson, Oberon Inc.
A high-quality wireless network is an investment that greatly enhances an institution’s ability to communicate securely and efficiently. In the process of designing a wireless network, a review of potential compliance issues helps to ensure that the network is designed to easily comply with requirements such as those set for federal and medical markets. By providing secure, convenient, and aesthetic access to wireless network components, wireless access point enclosures such as those designed by Oberon Inc. simplify compliance as well as helping to maximize overall security.
For installation of wireless networks in commercial building spaces, the installer needs to be cognizant of the National Electrical Code (NEC) when working and installing in the air-handling space above a suspended ceiling. The NEC requires unlisted equipment installed in the air-handling space above a suspended ceiling to be enclosed in a metal enclosure, per article 300.22. The NEC also requires equipment located within the suspended ceiling to be accessible by way of an opening panel or door.
In the medical field, network installations should take into consideration the procedures established by the Joint Commission for Accreditation for Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO). JCAHO has established Infection Control Risk Assessment (ICRA) procedures for the reduction of the spread of infectious disease. Part of this assessment involves mitigation of access to the air-handling space in suspended ceiling environments. For example, during construction and maintenance in high-risk areas, HVAC systems must be isolated, and personnel working in the area are to take special precautions, including use of anterooms where they can be vacuumed using a HEPA-filtered vacuum before exiting the work site. By using Oberon ceiling-mounted wireless access point enclosures, the network technician can access the wireless equipment by opening the cabinet door rather than removing ceiling tiles and breaching the air-handling space. This can simplify compliance with ICRA procedures.
Wireless enclosures provide key elements of network design: physical security, convenient access, and aesthetic benefits. By allowing network technicians to open a cabinet door rather than removing ceiling tiles, Oberon enclosures create a maintenance benefit. The lockable doors of both ceiling- and wall-mounted enclosures provide increased security for wireless networks. By providing methods of access that do not breach air-handling space, compliance with federal and medical market requirements, such as those set by the JCAHO, can be simplified. Additionally, enclosure design may boost wireless power, enhancing the effectiveness of the wireless antenna by encouraging ideal radiation patterns.
Scott Thompson is engineering director and co-founder of Oberon Inc.