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When They Can't Talk Lives Are Lost: What Public Officials Need to Know About Interoperability

NCJ Number
Date Published
February 2003
20 pages

This brochure is designed to present information to public officials about the need for public safety communications interoperability.


The brochure begins by outlining the current state of incompatible emergency communications systems. Public safety agencies are unable to effectively communicate and coordinate public safety operations because in most cases, agencies cannot talk to one another due to their incompatible communications systems. The need for interoperable public safety communications systems is underscored as vital to public safety. Indeed, in some cases public officials cannot even communicate with their own agencies because of incompatible communications systems. Radio spectrum is described, including the fragmentation that has resulted from operating public safety communications on 10 separate radio spectrum bands. Public official’s role in championing interoperability is outlined and involves communicating to the public the benefits of interoperability, facilitating interoperability planning among agencies, and supporting funding initiatives for public safety agencies working to achieve interoperability. Resources are identified for learning more about interoperability.

Date Published: February 1, 2003