Project Responder 5: Meeting First Responder Communications Needs in an Ever-Changing Environment

As technologies evolve and advance, it is important for emergency communications personnel and government officials to stay current with what is and will be available to them.  The nation’s emergency communication capability needs become more apparent during natural or manmade hazards when multiple response agencies are involved.

The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) research and development arm, the Science and Technology Directorate, collaborates with first responders and emergency managers nationwide to learn firsthand about new equipment and technology needed to perform their jobs safer, faster and more efficiently.

In 2001, in response to the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, the National Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism (MIPT) commissioned the Project Responder program to understand the gaps between the existing capabilities of responders and what is actually needed for an effective and timely response.

In its current and fifth iteration in the Project Responder program series, Project Responder 5 (PR5) describes 37 capability needs identified by emergency responders who participated in some of the nation’s recent large-scale incidents. This list of capabilities were validated by groups of responders across the United States.

One primary first responder need continues to be communications and information sharing capabilities. As an example, the ability to access, integrate and display images and video from an incident scene is crucial for emergency managers to make effective decisions during an incident. Among many other capability gaps - which are used to develop technology needs, identified in PR5, some of the most crucial for communication (which includes voice, data and information) were:

  • The ability to coordinate dispatch functions from multiple jurisdictions and agencies during response operations;
  • The ability to facilitate the management of communications channels and frequencies among multiple disciplines;
  • The ability to share incident-related information among agencies and disciplines during response operations; and
  • The ability to effectively communicate in the presence of loud ambient noise.

While there are ongoing research and development programs and projects to close the gaps and meet these needs, PR5 has attempted to illuminate the various needs of the multi-faceted first responder community. IN doing so, the PR5 aims to facilitate solutions to solve or mitigate first responder needs to promote safer, faster and more effective response to critical incidents. 

For more information on Project Responder 5 and the Project Responder series, visit the

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