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Voices of First Responders – Examining Public Safety Communication Problems and Requested Functionality: Findings from User-Centered Interviews, Phase 1, Volume 2.1



Shanee T. Dawkins, Yee-Yin Choong, Mary F. Theofanos, Kristen Greene, Susanne M. Furman, Michelle P. Steves, Sandra S. Prettyman


The public safety community has a unique opportunity to improve communication technology for incident response with the creation of the national public safety broadband network (NPSBN). Understanding the problems currently being experienced by first responders with communication technology as well as first responders' communication technology requests provides the basis for addressing and developing solutions to improve public safety communication. The National Institute of Standards and Technology Public Safety Communications Research usability team has conducted in-depth interviews with approximately 200 first responders representing 13 states in eight Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) regions. The population sample includes urban, suburban, and rural locations, and various levels in the chain of command within the fire, law enforcement, emergency medical services, and communications center disciplines. This Volume 2 report is the second in a series of reports documenting the findings. A qualitative analysis of the transcribed interview data revealed thousands of problems currently being experienced by first responders and new functionality requests. Further analysis, with respect to current problems identified 25 distinct categories, with 1 729 nist-quotes categorized across the four domains. The new functionality request data analysis resulted in 1 143 categorized nist-quotes belonging to 18 categories. From the problems and requested functionality data, three major themes across the public safety landscape were identified in addition to discipline-specific topics that need to be addressed as future communication technology for first responders develops.
NIST Interagency/Internal Report (NISTIR) - 8245
Report Number


First responders, Public safety communications research, Qualitative research, Usability, User- centered design, User needs and requirements
Created May 15, 2019, Updated May 20, 2019