Date of Conferral





Public Policy and Administration


Mary B. Brown


The failure of communications, particularly related to interoperability, between police and firefighters responding to dangerous situations has resulted in death or injury to themselves or those they strive to protect. Using Grebner's and Shannon and Weaver's conceptualizations of communications theory as the foundation, the purpose of this general qualitative study was to evaluate, from the perspective of first responders, what barriers exist that may impede opportunities for interoperability of communications systems. Data were collected through semi-structured interviews with a purposive sample of 18 experienced first responders from the states of California, New York, and Texas. Interview data were deductively coded and subjected to a thematic analysis procedure. Key findings indicated that participants perceived differences in technology among agencies as a primary source of frustration and impediment to full interoperability. Further, participants identified policy barriers, a lack of inter-agency training opportunities, and budgetary constraints as frustrating the efforts toward interoperability. The positive social change implications of this study include recommendations to policy makers and first responder agency leadership to support policy change, including appropriations, that encourage increased interoperability among first responder agencies to foster a more expeditious response to large scale emergencies.