Public Safety Networks

Public safety networks are critical infrastructures for first responders to exchange timely and accurate information in emergency situations. By tradition, in the U.S. every police department, fire department, and emergency medical service can make its own decisions, and in most cases, this policy extends to the provision of public safety network assets. Without effective coordination mechanisms, any infrastructure designed by many thousands of independent decision-makers is prone to producing a tangle of noninteroperable systems.

In Liu et al. (2017), we analyze trade-offs in the organization of public safety networks when network assets are distributed across districts and a district values network assets in its own and other districts. Comparing centralized, decentralized, and mixed organization forms, we capture two critical properties: interoperability among distributed technology-based network assets and the ability of districts to opt-in or opt-out of the centralized form. We model the provision of public safety networks, where network assets are chosen by each district or by a federal government, where these assets have a positive cross-district spillover that depends on interoperability, where investments in effort can be made to improve interoperability, and where districts can opt-in or opt-out of centralized provision. With the adoption of centralized, decentralized, or mixed provision as a result of districts’ opt-in or opt-out choices, we identify conditions that determine when the districts deviate from the social optimum and thus regulatory intervention is beneficial to incent the socially optimal organization form. We show how the socially optimal organization form can be achieved through policy instruments such as a sharing rule for the cost of interoperability effort and direct government grants.


Yipeng Liu, Hong Guo, and Barrie R. Nault. 2017. “Organization of public safety networks: Spillovers, interoperability, and participation,” Production and Operations Management, Volume 26, Issue 4, pp. 704-723.