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Why Can't We Talk? Working Together to Bridge the Communications Gap to Save Lives: A Guide for Public Officials-Supplemental Resources

NCJ Number
Date Published
February 2005
106 pages
This guide discusses the problem of incompatible radio communications between public safety agencies and presents suggestions for developing and improving interoperability among these agencies.
Hundreds of police and firefighter lives, as well as the lives of many citizens, have been lost or severely compromised because in many cases all around the country, public safety agencies lack the ability to communicate with one another. This is because their radios operate on different channels, frequencies, and systems. This lack of effective and immediate communication puts everyone at risk and must be resolved; public safety agencies must be able to quickly and efficiently communicate with one another, particularly in the event of a large-scale disaster. The guide defines interoperability and outlines the five key reasons public agencies are not able to communicate with one another, including a lack of funding and aging communications equipment. In order to begin to address the problem and bring interoperability to all public safety agencies, it is important that agencies first assess the current status of their public safety radio communications capabilities. The guide goes on to offer suggestions for reducing the costs and identifying financial resources to upgrade equipment and adopt new technologies that will enhance communications capabilities. Advice is offered on how to properly plan for interoperability that includes a discussion of planning principles and an interoperability planning process flow chart. The importance of developing a governance structure to oversee the implementation of the interoperability initiative is underscored and details concerning radio frequency spectrum in the United States are presented. The guide also contains worksheets that will assist in the assessment of interoperability capacity and radio communications capacity. Glossary

Date Published: February 1, 2005