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Voices of First Responders: How to Facilitate Adoption and Usage of Communication Technology - An Integrated Analysis of Qualitative and Quantitative Findings



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


The Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network (NPSBN) is being developed to provide a dedicated network for the use of first responders during incident response. A wave of new communication technologies compatible with the NPSBN is on the horizon, as major research and development efforts continue for these technologies. The National Institute of Standards and Technology's (NIST) Public Safety Communications Research (PSCR) Usability Team investigated the contexts in which first responders work, their experiences with incident response, and their problems with and needs for communication technology. The team conducted an exploratory, sequential, mixed-methods study to gather insights into the experiences and needs of first responders. The multi-phase study included in-depth interviews with 193 first responders in Phase 1, followed by a nationwide survey of 7 182 first responders in Phase 2. This report is the tenth volume published from this data and provides a holistic understanding of the usability of communication technology for first responders. It is unique in that it combines results from both Phase 1 and Phase 2 providing an integrated analysis of both the qualitative and quantitative data. This integration allowed us to develop overarching themes about the problems and needs of first responders, focusing specifically on the barriers and facilitators to the adoption and use of communication technology. In this report, we discuss how adoption and use of communication technology is impacted by first responders' experiences across three themes: technology trustworthiness, user autonomy, and frustration. Overarchingly, there is a lack of technology trustworthiness combined with low autonomy that often results in frustration for first responders. The development of trustworthy technology takes time and relies on first responders knowing that their input and experiences matter (i.e., having autonomy). The lack of trustworthiness and autonomy has an impact on the acceptance and adoption of new technology and the ability of first responders to accomplish their primary tasks. This work can be useful for the researchers, designers, and developers (R&D) community as it works to improve current and develop future communication technology for first responders. It can also aid administrators and decision makers (ADMs) in making purchasing decisions and developing policies related to communication technology for first responders in their departments.
NIST Interagency/Internal Report (NISTIR) - 8443
Report Number


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


Choong, Y. , Buchanan, K. , Dawkins, S. and Spickard Prettyman, S. (2022), Voices of First Responders: How to Facilitate Adoption and Usage of Communication Technology - An Integrated Analysis of Qualitative and Quantitative Findings, NIST Interagency/Internal Report (NISTIR), National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, MD, [online],, (Accessed May 30, 2024)


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Created November 28, 2022, Updated November 29, 2022