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Better communication key for first responders

Dec. 14, 2007 - Toronto – Canada’s First Responders – the front line in emergency response for all citizens - have for the first  time jointly identified factors including inter-agency interoperability; a unified approach for incorporating best practices; and centralized research and testing of  technologies as critical to improving their ability to enhance public safety.  

December 14, 2007 

These findings come from Keeping Canadians Safe: A Technology, Research and Development, and Emergency Preparedness Situational Analysis of Canadian First Responders, released today by the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance (CATA) and conducted for the Canadian Police Research Centre (CPRC).“

The results of this study clearly demonstrate the important role Advanced Security technology plays in ensuring that First Responders have the tools they need to guarantee the safety of Canadians,” said John Reid, President of CATA.  “That is why CATA has expanded its support of the advanced security industry in CanadaCanada and the role of technology companies in supporting security initiatives through participation in thought leadership research and public sector/private sector partnerships.” 

As part of its work in policing and public safety science and technology, CPRC commissioned the study in partnership with CATA to improve the level of understanding of the changing patterns in the scale, nature and spatial distribution of Canadian First Responder organizations; gain a better understanding of their use and application of Information and Communications Technology (ICT); and provide recommendations as to how the Canadian Police Research Centre can work with all Canadian First Responders.

For the first time in CanadaCanada, Fire, Police, Paramedic and Emergency Response organizations were exclusively asked about their current use of technology, about emergency preparedness capabilities, and to identify a range of services they would like to see available to improve collaboration and cooperation amongst various jurisdictions. A total of 144 Chiefs (or equivalent) from Fire, Police, Paramedic and Emergency Response Organizations responded to the study.


Funding for the research was provided, in part, by TELUS.

"TELUS, CATA and CPRC share a commitment to a safer CanadaCanada,” said Rod Piukkala, marketing director, TELUS Business Solutions. “This survey was critical to examine the issues facing the first responder community now and, most importantly, in the future.

Key findings

The majority of respondents identified natural disasters, fire, and epidemic/pandemic events as presenting the top three risks to Canadians’ safety.  The survey then identified a number of significant concerns inhibiting First Responders’ ability to deliver the best possible service in any emergency situation.
These include:

  • Interoperability – Issues related to technology, jurisdictions, and on-the-ground chain of command challenges were identified as the primary threat to their emergency response abilities; 
  • Funding – Funds for the appropriate testing and use of equipment and technology was also a significant concern – less than half of respondents agreed there is sufficient funding in this area. When probed about their satisfaction with products and services available to First Responders, the compatibility of communications devices received the lowest rating;
  • Centralized Research Facility – Respondents agreed that there is a very strong need for a range of services which would be offered through a centralized research facility: access to knowledge and expertise across the First Responder community, development of product and service standards, evaluation of products in an operational setting, and providing access to market intelligence and trends. This signals strong support for the expanded mandate of the CPRC to address the needs of the broader First Responder community.

Recommended next steps

Work is already under way to begin to bring together the collective wisdom of public safety and communications leaders and experts, looking for a unified approach to problem solving by all First Responders, for First Responders. A number of initiatives have been identified as necessary as a result of this study, including:       

Ongoing support to the Canadian Interoperability Technology Interest Group, bringing together representatives from public safety, industry, academia and government to help shape the direction of research and development related to interoperability amongst Canadian public safety providers;       

Ongoing research, including the creation of a public safety stakeholder map;·        

An Interoperability Town Hall;

Creation of a First Responder/industry collaboration and procurement portal – a centralized online community allowing both First Responders and vendors to better engage one another;        

A major event security management conference that would bring together leaders in major event security management, including global security experts and Canadian experts

Immediately following the release of the report, CATA is hosting a Lunch With Leaders, at which attendees from industry and first responder groups will have an opportunity to discuss a number of topics with CPRC staff, including the interoperability between First Responders, products and services, concern over funding levels for training and equipment testing, and the top three risks being faced by First Responders. The CPRC will be reviewing the report and considering the recommendations in its future plans. 

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