Verizon Frontline releases results of new public safety communications survey

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What you need to know:

  • Need for interoperability among public safety agencies: 93 percent of first responders say coordination between agencies is critical when responding to public safety crises, while 80 percent believe that interoperability – the ability to communicate across agencies, regardless of network or device – is critical.

  • Smartphones are essential tools: Smartphones have passed land mobile radio systems (LMRs) as the main way first responders communicate on the job, with 72 percent using their devices for work every day, compared to 68 percent for LMRs. Only half (50.5 percent) use laptops.

  • Opportunity to improve: While the vast majority of first responders (70 percent) feel capable of doing their jobs with existing technologies, nearly 20 percent want better technology.

  • Ready for 5G: Nearly all first responders (97 percent) know about 5G, and most (70 percent) believe 5G’s faster speeds and enhanced capabilities are key to the future of public safety technology.

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Verizon Frontline today released findings from its new Public Safety Communications Survey, conducted by Lexipol, incorporating responses from more than 3,000 active first responders nationwide.

The results indicate a demand among public safety professionals for network reliability and interoperability as well as a desire to take advantage of the enhanced communication and technological capabilities enabled by 5G. 

The results of the survey were first revealed during an event at the National Law Enforcement Memorial and Museum here in Washington, D.C., earlier today.

Verizon Public Sector senior vice president, Jennifer Chronis moderated a panel discussion on the survey’s findings and other challenges facing first responders. The discussion featured Bill Bratton, two-time commissioner of the New York Police Department, former Chief of the Los Angeles Police Department and current chair of the Homeland Security Advisory Council; Ed Plaugher, former fire chief for Arlington County, Va., and former assistant executive director of the International Association of Fire Chiefs; and Karen Tandy, vice chair of the Homeland Security Advisory Council and former Administrator of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

Shifting technology trends and emerging needs

Beyond a demand for greater interoperability, the survey revealed developments in technology expectations and usage. For example, smartphones now outpace existing land mobile radio systems for daily communications tasks by a small but growing margin, with 72 percent using smartphones compared to 68 percent for LMRs.

Overall, personal devices were viewed by first responders as the strongest area of technological improvement over the past 20 years across all public safety agencies at 75 percent. This was followed by the use of data for situational awareness (55 percent) and network reliability (48.5 percent) as areas of improvement.

The trend toward greater smartphone field usage is expected to continue for the next five years, when emerging technologies such as internet-connected vehicles, drones and tablets could also see significant growth. Drone use by public safety agencies alone could grow from five percent today to 16-percent adoption by 2026, according to the survey.

While most first responders (70 percent) said they feel capable of doing their jobs with existing technologies, 18 percent indicated a desire for better technology to help them prepare for the next emergency or crisis.

5G expected to enhance the future of first response

Potential 5G benefits such as faster speeds, low latency and features like the ability to send larger files and the ability to connect a larger number of devices are widely recognized among first responders.

Almost all respondents (97 percent) said they have heard of 5G but only 40 percent say they are confident in their understanding of the technology. At the same time, more than 70 percent think 5G will become a priority in the future of public safety technology. 

The findings also support Verizon Frontline‘s commitment to deliver real interoperability with priority and preemption across carriers and networks. Roughly 9 in 10 respondents said the ability to communicate across agencies regardless of network provider or device was “a critical concern” (57 percent) or “somewhat of a concern” (33 percent).

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