911 Dispatch Center "Conveniences?" Can You Give Them What They Want?

Posted by Kathleen Utley on Nov 13, 2013 4:41:00 PM


iStock_000016557030XSmall"Oh, PLEASE...Oh, Please..."

Making 911 comm center dispatchers comfortable, happy and reducing stress is a top priority for any dispatch supervisor or manager. So what about the other "conveniences" dispatch employees often want to see incorporated into their center and dare I say "beg" for?

You may say, okay, okay, I know these kinds of items, and they typically fall more into the category of convenience simply because, like anything, they are nice to have, but not absolutely necessary to performing the job. Or are they?

I'm sure by now, you've heard at least a few of these common nuances; the "pretty pleases" or "well, such and such comm center has it" or the ever promising "we would work harder, take less sick days and be better employees if we had...".  

By now, I'm sure you're wondering, can you realistically and financially "give them what they want?" 

What conveniences can you afford that will make your employees the happiest and healthiest without breaking the bank? And, which conveniences really aren't conveniences at all? Keep in mind, that the end goal should really be to provide the best ergonomic health and comfort for your dispatchers. And, yes, occasionally, you might even have to say "yes"; all the while smiling - knowing that you'll be making your dispatchers very happy and then they can say, "nah, nah, nah our center has this and yours doesn't".

Because we all know - it'll happen. 

Here are a few "conveniences" that as a dispatch manager or supervisior are worth your review:

Ergonomic Chairs

Buying a good ergonomic chair is essential for your dispatch employees who typically sit for long periods of time. I'm sure your heard the recent findings that sitting and inactivity can be a huge health risk. Sitting in a chair that doesn't provide proper ergonomic support can potentially lead to severe back aches and other physical issues down the road. So, do not consider ergonomic chairs a "convenience."

Also, don't be cheap and buy regular office chairs for the dispatch center. Those chairs simply aren't designed to withstand people sitting in them for long hours. Not-to-mention the typical abuse taken from dispatchers with too much time on their hands. (wink, wink) The cheap office chairs usually don't last and you'll end up replacing them after a few short years. 

Chairs that are easily adjustable in height, as well as through the back and seat pan are going to be imperative for all your dispatch center employees. You should also consider buying different chair sizes to accommodate those with different body sizes. Plus, be sure to test out the adjustment features on the chairs before you buy them. There are many options available and the old adage "try it before you buy it" can save you a lot of time and energy down the road.

Comfort Features

By now, I'm sure you know who in your comm center complains of being "too hot" or "too cold". There never seems to be a happy medium. But, the comfort of a dispatcher can mean better productivity and a better sense of job satisfaction; therefore, also, not really a "convenience". Unless, you want the added expense of high-turnover in your staffing?

Currently, there are a variety of options on the market for heating, cooling, lighting and more. Typically, these features are paired with whichever workstations your center is using. But, if you are thinking of upgrading or changing out the comfort features in your center, remember - safety! Here are a few other things to consider:

- Be sure that the heating unit you choose is a not a fire hazard, but actually does produce enough heat to be felt by the dispatcher (1000W forced air should do the trick). 

- Lighting controls as well as other comfort features should be centrally located and easy to use. The ability to dim and brighten is always nice to have for those with dark lighting in their comm center.

- Cooling fan(s) should be centrally located, but can easily be moved and directed toward the user based on preference. Easy access to fan filter will help with cleaning and maintenance.

- Whichever comfort features you end up choosing, its always nice to have a motion or energy saving feature that will turn off the heater, cooling fans when a workstation is not in use.

NOTE - New antimicrobial features have recently been introduced into the 911 dispatch market. These features include a antimicrobial worksurfaces and a UVC airborne germ killing fans. If your dispatchers haven't asked about these "conveniences" yet, they soon will. As an added assurance of cleanliness in a shared workstation environment, I will leave this one up to you, if it's a "convenience" or not?

Height Adjustable Desks

This type of workstation has become a standard in the 911 dispatch market. Given the various dispatch furniture options and vendors available, you may have a hard time differentiating one workstations features from another. (this could be a blog post in itself) But, this section is simply to present you with some un-biased "non-conveniences" on height adjustable desks and workstations.

 - Dispatchers should be able to stretch their legs and move freely while seated at the workstation. Ample leg clearance and knee space is essential. 

- Different dispatchers sharing the same workstation require different focal depth adjustments. This should be accommodated for by preferably with an adjustable monitor array vs individual monitor arms.

- Frequently used items should be close enough to the dispatcher that they will not have to reach/over extend to retrieve the item needed, this is called proper reach zones. Keeping these items close at hand will prevent the dispatcher from straining and improper reaching.

- Be sure to accommodate for the widest range of users by selecting a workstation that can reach the minimum height of seated a female, as well as maximum standing height of a male. 

Most, if not all of these height adjustable workstation requirements or "non conveniences" are outlined by the ANSI/HFES ergonimic guidelines. This is a great third-party reference tool that you can utilize in determining what you should be looking for in a height adjustable desk.

So, the take away from this article should be, that while somethings your dispatchers are asking for, begging for and pleading for, might sometimes be considered a "convenience". Are they really? Please remember to do your research! Often these small "conveniences" can save you time, money and sick days in the end. And, when you see your dispatchers become healthier and happier, suddenly those "conveniences" won't seem like "conveniences" any more.


Topics: Ergonomics, Accessories, Dispatch