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Public Safety Communications and Interoperability

NCJ Number
Date Published
May 2007
2 pages
This brief examines the challenges faced by public safety agencies trying to integrate communication systems.
Challenges to achieving interoperability include incompatible radio equipment, lack of a common language, and the use of different frequency bands by different agencies. Radio technologies that promote interoperability include simplex or line-of-sight systems and conventional and trunked radio repeater systems. To promote interoperability, agencies should: optimize their internal communications systems; agree on basic requirements, set realistic goals, and collaborate to achieve a common goal; and use low-cost solutions, such as preprogrammed radios, shared radio frequencies, and plain language (instead of agency-specific coded language). When choosing a system for a public safety agency, radio system planners need to conduct comparative analyses to determine which type of system is most appropriate for the environment and requirements imposed by their mission and operations. Important tips to improving interoperability include: make sure your agency's communications systems work smoothly before attempting to be interoperable with another communications system; sharpen your collaborative working relationships with other agencies before embarking on interoperability solutions; get agreement from all stakeholders on a set of basic requirements and acknowledge that all systems need to be maintained, upgraded, and eventually replaced; set realistic goals that fit the resources available, and provide an achievable level of interoperability. Three low-cost interoperability solutions include: preprogram all mobile and portable radios with national interoperability channels and frequencies (found at www.fcc.gov), a step that usually requires no additional infrastructure; share radio frequencies with neighbors on compatible radio system; and adopt plain language communications for day-to-day transmissions. 2 notes

Date Published: May 1, 2007