APCO International’s 81st Annual Conference and Expo is right around the corner, and that means all of the newest and most innovative dispatch furniture will be on display for the world to see. Ha, ha, ha! Ok, not really! Similar to last year and every other year, you'll see almost all of the same vendors making a repeat cameo appearance!
So, same vendors, same sales pitch, pretty much the same product. With a variety vendors offering 911 furniture choices, it can be tricky arriving at an informed decision when it comes to who to make a purchase with for your next dispatch furniture project. This list of questions can be used to help narrow down which vendor has the product best suited for your needs:
Easy Questions--Cover the Basics! These questions will help you skim the surface of the dispatch furniture at hand, as well as get a feel for the vendors, before diving into more complex territory:
- Is that a console or a piece of furniture? Consoles are specifically designed to comply with the electrical needs of a radio, phone, computer--basically anything that sits on top of the desk.
- What color options does it come in? (warm wood tones, industrial metals, etc.)
- How do I swap out a monitor? Have the vendors demo what happens when a monitor dies. Time them; the furniture should be designed to accommodate quick fixes in order to promote effective work flow in your center.
- How do I replace a dead computer? See above.
- Where is it manufactured? Knowing where the furniture is made can help determine the quality of the product as well as how accessible replacement parts and warranty needs will be.
- Are those pens free? Well, who doesn’t love freebies?
Medium Questions--Time to Get More Technical! If the vendor passes the first round of interrogation, move onto these more in-depth topics to determine if the product is something to realistically consider:
- Does that come in multiple sizes? It’s imperative you know that the furniture will work with the space you have in your center, and the vendors should have a vast array of sizes and designs from previous projects to show you.
- Can you fit it into our weird shaped room? Don’t settle for the quick “yes.” Get proof from previous projects. Now’s your chance to see the product in vivid detail, and a reputable vendor should be more than happy to accommodate your needs to ensure it will work within the layout of your comm center.
- How do you keep the computers cool? Keeping computers operating at an ideal temperature is vital to prolonging their lifespan, and a quality console should have an effective cooling feature built in. For best results, have the vendor show you a model with either passive heat extraction (lots of holes) or a fan (make sure it is quiet).
- Can I stretch out? Sit at the desk, stretch out, and make sure your toes don’t hit anything and you have ample knee space. (Remember to consider any tall dispatchers at your center as well.)
- Who designs the room layout? Find out if they design it in-house or if they ship it out to a design mill; in-house manufacturers often can accommodate custom needs (design, size, color, etc.) much easier than mills.
- Are those lanyards free? Hey, it doesn’t hurt to ask.
Hard Questions--This Is the True Test! If the vendor’s products are looking good this far, put them to the true test with these advanced scenarios.
- Can you show me that you meet the five ergonomic standards from the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society? These are the factors noted as contributing to comfort and productivity in the workplace, so if they do not know what you are talking about, that should be a big hint that the furniture is not designed with the user in mind.
- If I sit here, what will happen? Don’t just ask them; do it! Sit on the edge, sit on the top, etc. You know your night shift is going to do it, so make sure the material is sturdy and can handle it.
- What happens if this lift column breaks? The lift columns are the heart of the console and run the surfaces up and down. They do break, so find out how long it takes to swap one out.
- How do you manufacture that? The vendor should be able to talk about how the components are built, what material is used, etc., and knowing this information will help you properly assess the structure and durability.
- What if I scratch that paint / tear the fabric / break the door? These are the kind of circumstances that will eventually and inevitably occur, and a while a quality piece of furniture should be made out of durable material, always find out what, if any, repairs are covered by warranty. Also, for the fixes that aren’t covered, seek out advice on how to best patch things up.
- I have my pickup; can I have one of the stations? If the vendors have passed your third degree successfully and all doubts have been cast aside, put your order in and enjoy your new dispatch furniture!
There are many details to take into consideration when purchasing new dispatch furniture, and it can seem overwhelming. Luckily, APCO will be a great opportunity to start looking for what you need; you’ll be able to talk to the vendors face-to-face, give the furniture a test drive, and snatch up all of the freebies you can handle, and if you want, stop by the Xybix booth! (Or don't)