broadbandEfforts are underway to build a Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network (NPSBN), which is intended to provide comprehensive high-speed wireless communications services to the more than 60,000 local and state public safety agencies and organizations nationwide. 

Such a network will allow first responders nationwide to communicate with each other at all times and without delay.  Broadband can help protect the public by facilitating and promoting public safety information and procedures, such as

  • Early warning/public alert systems and disaster preparation programs.
  • Remote security monitoring and real-time security background checks.
  • Backup systems for public safety communications networks and information sharing in a tactical environment.

The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet), an independent authority within the National Telecommunications & Information Authority (NTIA), is responsible to build, deploy, and operate the network, in consultation with federal, state, tribal and local public safety stakeholders. Federal grant money has been allocated to fund the construction, operation and evolution of the network, with additional grant funds available to support state, regional, tribal and local jurisdictions’ planning efforts. 

This unprecedented and complex project challenges public safety decision makers at all levels, who may be unclear what steps they should take to prepare for its eventual implementation. In particular, local decision makers who purchase, plan for, and implement public safety data and voice technologies have an important role in NPSBN planning and deployment. 

SEARCH is uniquely positioned to support local agencies that want to prepare for their eventual participation in the NPSBN. SEARCH staff have years of public safety communications experience, including running police/fire/EMS communications centers, developing strategic technology plans, analyzing user needs and requirements, and managing communication center renovations.  In addition, SEARCH staff serve on the FirstNet Public Safety Advisory Committee (PSAC), composed of key leaders on public safety communications and interoperability issues who provide input and expertise to the FirstNet Board. 

We are available to answer your questions and provide assistance.

Additional Resources

  • Read our Issue Brief, Prepping for the Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network. It describes the history of the network; explains the players involved in the effort; and offers steps that local agencies can take now to prepare for the network implementation. 
  • Read our Issue Brief, An Introduction to Long Term Evolution (LTE).  Long Term Evolution, commonly referred to as 4G—or next generation wireless communications—is the new standard for public safety broadband. This brief discusses the advantages and limitations of LTE technologies for public safety. 
  • Listen to a podcast on how the Charlottesville (Virginia) Fire Department has developed practical applications using broadband technology. The region has conducted several trials with multiple broadband vendors and shares those results with SEARCH. Listen to Full Interview  (mp3)

Karen Lissy

Ms. Karen Lissy is a Justice Information Services Specialist for the Law and Policy Program of SEARCH, The National Consortium for Justice Information and Statistics. In this position, she provides assistance to state and local justice and public safety agencies to collect, curate, and use National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) data and computerized criminal history record (CCH/CHRI) information for policy analysis and development.

She also guides justice and related organizations in how to craft and implement laws, policies, practices, and technology applications to effectively collect and use CCH and related justice/public safety data; address legal, policy, and regulatory issues associated with CCH data; better manage and operate criminal justice information and identification systems; and develop security and privacy policies that protect justice information sharing systems.

Ms. Lissy has nearly two decades of research and data analysis experience, having led projects and tasks in support of two agencies within the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs (the Bureau of Justice Statistics and National Institute of Justice), as well as the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, and multiple foundations, including Ford, Annie E. Casey, and Hewlett. Prior to joining SEARCH in October 2020, Ms. Lissy served as a Social Science Researcher at RTI International, as a regional Crime Analyst for the Redmond (WA) Police Department, and as Director of a research program with the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis. Beginning in 2012, Ms. Lissy’s work has focused on improving data in law enforcement to answer policy questions and improve community/police relations.

Ms. Lissy earned a Bachelor’s degree in Public Policy from Duke University, and a Master’s in Public Health from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.