The purpose of this project was to research, collect and analyze data pertaining to the impact that the growing number of wireless devices has upon the first responder and the spectrum of electronic safety equipment (ESE) devices in their personal area network (PAN). A PAN refers to any network created by any electronic or communications device in a person’s proximity. Local first responder agencies typically select their wireless devices and ESE based on cost and availability. This approach does not often account for the possibility of incompatibility and the potential for harmful interference with other systems and the users themselves.
To investigate the effects of multiple wireless devices on human performance, Mercer Engineering Research Center (MERC), in collaboration with Mercer University, Guardian Centers, and High Velocity Human Factors, executed a detailed research plan based on DHS defined objectives. That plan included the selection of radio frequency (RF) and human factors instrumentation equipment, a detailed study of the current and future state of the public safety RF spectrum, planning and participation in multiple medium/large first responder exercises, and the analysis of the collected data. The objectives of the research were to observe in a naturalistic setting, rather than in a laboratory, the kinds of communication losses experienced by first responders during emergency responses and determine the causes and effects of communication losses.