I see a lot of 911 communications dispatch centers in the course of my work, and some function better than others. When attention is paid to the design and layout of dispatch center furniture, that makes a positive difference in efficiency and comfort.
The furniture and layout of a dispatch center can almost always be improved. There are techniques for arranging dispatch center furniture, two-way radios, monitors, and phone systems to help emergency responders do their jobs.
When it comes down to it, I find that the three elements people need to keep in mind when designing or redesigning a dispatch center are:
1. Space: Locating and arranging the dispatch center
2. Sound: Enabling communication within and beyond the dispatch center
3. Occupational health: Finding the right setup for workers’ ongoing performance and wellbeing
Common Problems In Dispatch Center Design
1. Space Challenges
- Not enough space (or the right space) for the team to do their jobs well
- Workers aren’t close enough to be able to communicate
- People aren’t able to properly distance to meet COVID-19 safety protocols
- Furniture configuration doesn’t enable dispatch workers to work effectively
2. Sound Challenges
- Acoustics of the room make it difficult to hear communication devices as well as in-person communication
- Space doesn’t allow dispatch workers to focus while listening to their calls
3. Occupational Health Challenges
- Furniture and equipment doesn’t work well for each team member. For example:
- Furniture doesn’t work for right- and left-handed people
- Furniture doesn’t work for people with disabilities
- Chairs and monitors aren’t set up for people of different sizes and heights
- Furniture doesn’t work well for people who work 10-12 hours a day
- Positions (sitting, standing, or a combination of the two) aren’t used effectively to enable workers to do their duties throughout their shift and on an ongoing basis
Solving Problems Using Dispatch Center Furniture
Reading the above list of challenges, which ones is your dispatch center dealing with right now? Here are some of the ways that dispatch centers can use furniture and design to address and prevent problems and promote effective communication:
- Try a different configuration: Common configurations are rows, pods of 3-4 people, or an L-shape.
- Evaluate different desks for your dispatch center.
- Choose comfortable chairs for people of different heights and sizes.
- Select monitors that take into account worker comfort and communication, furniture layout, sightlines, and lengths of work shifts.
- Install acoustic treatments that allow people to hear what they need to hear and dampen echoes and distracting noise (of course, having the right communications equipment for public safety is also crucial).
- Install electrical outlets and cabling that work for your layout.
Every dispatch center is different, and 911 communications centers have different needs. There is no cookie-cutter solution. However, everyone needs functional furniture that is laid out in a way that maximizes efficiency and comfort.
How To Get Help with Dispatch Center Furniture and Design
In addition to providing and servicing equipment, some two-way radio providers take the extra step to provide guidance on dispatch center furniture. They can assess the needs of your space and facility and guide you down the path of purchasing furniture and arranging a space that meets your public safety needs. They can also connect you with furniture design specialists who will sit down in the room with you and your two-way radio provider to work together to create a 911 communications center that works best for you.
It’s best if everyone working on the new or redesigned dispatch center is coordinating their efforts so that, for example, furniture selection and electrical systems support the specific communications equipment you’re going to be using.
Public Safety in Mind
Dispatch center furniture is part of the picture of creating an effective and welcoming 911 communications hub. The best dispatch centers are places where everyone is able to communicate and work together to serve the common goal of public safety. They are spaces that facilitate a feeling of community and common purpose. And that’s what really matters.