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Voices of First Responders: Communication Center & 9-1-1 Services



Shanee Dawkins, Yee-Yin Choong, Kerrianne Buchanan, Sandra Spickard-Prettyman


The goal of the National Institute of Standards and Technology's (NIST) Public Safety Communications Research (PSCR) program's Usability Team was to provide guidance on the usability of public safety communication technology. Toward that end, the PSCR Usability Team collected and analyzed data related to the contexts in which first responders work and their experiences with communication technology. Data analysis of first responder needs for and problems with communication technology resulted in the development of six user-centered design guidelines. These guidelines serve as a set of best practices for technology developers working to develop and improve communication technology in the public safety domain. This Special Publication is primarily intended for designers, developers, vendors, and researchers of public safety communication technology, as well as for public safety administrators and decision-makers. It is one of four in a special Voices of First Responders mini-series highlighting the experiences of first responders with communication technology, including their needs for and problems with communication technology. The special mini-series focuses on four first responder disciplines: Communication Center & 9-1-1 Services (COMMS); Emergency Medical Services (EMS); Fire Service (FF); and Law Enforcement (LE). Each presents discipline-specific data supporting the six user-centered design guidelines. This publication in the special mini-series focuses specifically on first responders in Communication Center & 9-1-1 Services (COMMS). In this publication, each of the six user-centered guidelines are discussed, along with supporting data, to provide a succinct view for how to optimize the COMMS user experience with communication technology. The results presented here are not exhaustive or comprehensive but provide a high-level summary of findings. Additional information can be found in the previous nine volumes of the Voices of First Responders Series which are cited on the final page of this publication. Ultimately, the goal is to provide guidance for ensuring an optimal user experience with communication technology for first responders in COMMS.
Special Publication (NIST SP) - 1286pt1
Report Number


First responders, Communication technology, Public safety communications research, Usability, User-centered design, User needs and requirements


Dawkins, S. , Choong, Y. , Buchanan, K. and Spickard-Prettyman, S. (2023), Voices of First Responders: Communication Center & 9-1-1 Services, Special Publication (NIST SP), National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, MD, [online],, (Accessed April 22, 2024)
Created January 30, 2023, Updated March 20, 2023