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Choosing the right consoles

Written by Susan Geoghegan

Government agencies seeking to build a state-of-the-art facility must consider a multitude of technologies before deciding upon the solution that best suits their needs. But new technology alone does not ensure enhanced productivity. Police personnel need thoughtfully designed workstations to achieve optimal performance, flexibility and organization.

These ergonomic, durable consoles provide easy viewing of multiple monitors, efficient cable management, and enough equipment storage and access to handle even the largest CPUs. To assist police administrators in determining the appropriate solution for their facility, this article will focus on five leading companies in the technology furniture industry.

AFC Industries

A leader in technology furniture, AFC Industries manufactures a wide range of ergonomically designed solutions for mission-critical environments. Its workstations, carts, and storage systems offer fully adjustable, durable functionality that ensures maximum operator comfort and convenience. With wood, metal and paint shops located within the facility, AFC is able to manufacture all its products in house. In addition to a complete line of accessories, AFC can provide either standard or custom configurations to suit all needs. All systems come with a lifetime warranty on materials, parts, and workmanship, with an extended warranty available upon request.

AFC’s Control Consoles are ideal for emergency dispatch facilities and are offered in both stationary and mobile configurations. The CCCon-84-12 consists of 12 monitors in a unit that measures 84 inches wide, can be adjusted electronically from 28 inches to 47 inches high, and has a work surface that is retractable for operator comfort. Monitor arms on each row slide left-right and tilt up-down and left-right.

The Dispatch Console Focus Control Pod (FCP-1) is equipped with 15 monitors on an electronically controlled panel that adjusts up and down. As with the CCCon-84-12, the work surface and keyboards are fully adjustable. The FCP is loaded with space-saving storage within the unit in both the front and back.

Consoles designed specifically for use in public safety environments include the PSC-2 models. These workspace stations offer multiple monitors that can be moved electronically into any number of positions, with work surfaces that adjust up and down for comfort and convenience. The space-saving storage cabinets have roll-out shelves that can hold CPUs of any size.

AFC’s industry-trained designers and engineers offer on-site consultation to determine the appropriate solution for each facility. They provide 3-D drawings of available options, in addition to 3-D room layouts to help envision the end result. AFC Industries is dedicated to providing workspace solutions that maximize productivity by reducing operator fatigue and discomfort. Potential customers can also avail themselves of the interactive “Room Layout Designer” on the company’s website.

Evans Consoles

This Canadian-based, privately owned company was founded in 1980 and has become a leader in the design and manufacture of custom control solutions in mission-critical environments. The company’s in-house design and engineering experts assess each facility and provide potential clients with photo-realistic renderings of possible solutions. Evans’ client list is extensive and varied, ranging from Fortune 500 companies to government agencies and municipalities of all sizes.

Evans Consoles’ products differ from traditional office furniture in several ways. Conventional office furniture invites clutter and is generally designed for a single desktop computer. A workplace-specific solution eases clutter because it is built to manage larger amounts of computer equipment, allowing for optimum organization and productivity. Built around a solid steel frame or exuded aluminum frame, an Evans console provides the durability required in public safety and emergency environments.

With effective, scalable solutions for mission-critical centers, Evans’ operator-driven design focuses on the user’s specific requirements. In creating an effective work space area, the design team must consider: 1) ideal placement of the equipment in relation to the operator, allowing for a custom-made console that optimizes comfort and efficiency; 2) operator reach zones and visual sightlines, as well as lighting and acoustics, to provide the optimal ergonomic solution; and 3) operator interaction in relation to the other functional groups of the control room.

Evans offers two sit-stand console configurations designed specifically for control room environments: the Response and the Dispatch. With electrically actuated sit-stand functionality, the Response console is ideal for the 24/7 command and control room facility. This feature is ergonomically designed to promote blood circulation and enhanced user alertness, resulting in increased efficiency and productivity. The Response console offers touch-of-a-button work surface height and monitor adjustment, a patented Unity Monitor Arm with tilt and height adjustment capabilities, and comfort options, such as an environmental control unit and personal ventilation.

Another Evans workstation solution created specifically for emergency 9-1-1 call centers is the Dispatch console. With its durability and functionality, Dispatch is designed to handle the demanding day-to-day operations of an emergency 9-1-1 communications center. Features include a flexible modular based frame system that allows multiple configurations and visual layouts; four-wire management system offers separate partitions for each type of cabling; and easily accessible CPU storage space serviceable from both front and rear panels.

When the Los Angeles Police Department wanted to integrate consoles into its two large 9-1-1 facilities, it had a number of specific requirements that had to be met before committing to a particular layout. The console would have to hold three processors on one slide-out shelf, provide adequate ventilation for the equipment, accommodate a Johnson Control unit, and require a custom monitor arm that could hold four flat screen monitors.

The Evans design team assessed the facility’s needs and came up with a solution that addressed the crucial storage and safety requirements, while providing proper ergonomics to ensure operator comfort. Agency concerns about the cabling from the electric-actuated monitor arm were addressed by using a flexible E-chain to hold and protect the cabling as the work surface moved up and down. With experts on staff to meet specialized needs of specific markets, Evans is able to provide the right solution for every type of facility.

According to Luke Carruthers, marketing manager for Evans Consoles, the company has lived through several changes in the industry since its inception 28 years ago. Carruthers said they “have been able to adapt to and really lead the way in dealing with changes in technology, the environment, expectations of the workforce, and attitudes toward ergonomics.” Evans’ government partners include U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), California Multiple Award Schedule (CMAS), and Texas Multiple Award Schedule (TXMAS).

Moducom

Since 1978, Modular Communi-cations Systems (Moducom) has designed and manufactured communication control systems for E9-1-1 dispatch centers and police agencies throughout North America. Relying heavily on customer input, Moducom can create a customized solution that best suits a facility’s specific needs. Its console systems are designed to easily adapt to the rapid changes in technology without incurring high costs.

The UltraCom Radio / E911 System is a fully digitized radio-telephone-E9-1-1 dispatch communication console that ensures effective handling of the demands of emergency control centers. A dispatcher can answer 9-1-1 calls, monitor alarm status, control auxiliary equipment, and communicate with field personnel in one seamless user interface. This Windows Operating system offers a 247 channel / Telco non-blocking digital switch and is fully user programmable. The interface between the dispatcher and the functions of the console systems allows effective communication with both telephone callers and field radio units.

The UltraCom Radio / E911 system’s built-in features include: 1) free software upgrades for the life of the system (no software maintenance fees); 2) an advanced diagnostic program that performs extensive diagnostic procedures; 3) a screen maker that allows customization to reflect operator requirements; and 4) the Micro-Cam, a USB accessory that allows additional operator positions with very little expense.

When the Shawano County, WI Sheriff’s Department was seeking to upgrade its 9-1-1 equipment, Sergeant Bill Mott obtained bids from several companies. The department, which dispatches 36 different fire and EMS services over a 900-square-mile rural area, was under pressure to become Phase II compliant. In 2004, after much research by Sgt. Mott and the department, Moducom’s UltraCom system was installed. Moducom’s all-in-one, single-application system was a perfect fit for the dispatch center, and came in at a much lower price than anything offered by other vendors.

Moducom modular construction consoles are designed to ensure flexibility and expandability, and they can be configured to any specification. They offer standard layouts as well as customized configurations, based on a facility’s budget and communications needs. Detailed features and specs of the UltraCom console can be viewed at the company’s website.

Russ Bassett

Founded in 1960, the Russ Bassett Corp. designs and manufactures high-quality, innovative console and storage solutions for mission-critical environments. With a 110,000-sqare-foot manufacturing facility, the company offers a full-service approach designed to meet the specific needs of each customer. Its heavy-duty steel construction consoles feature rack mount accommodations, CPU storage, slatwall and removable access panels, and internal cable management.

Features and benefits of its Desience Dispatch consoles include: 1) two Linak DL2 lifting columns with a gross lifting capacity of 750 pounds; 2) flat-panel monitor arms that can hold from 7 pounds to 35 pounds; 3) Anti-Collision Technology safety switch that immediately stops the system if an obstruction is detected; 4) easily reconfigurable CPU storage compartments; and 5) slatwall covering the entire workstation that provides strong mounting capabilities.

The Newport Beach, CA Police 9-1-1 Dispatch Center provides service to more than 80,000 people in a 630-square-foot facility. Lacking the necessary workspace to effectively respond to emergency calls, the facility was given a much-needed facelift in 2007. Impressed with the design layout, functionality and innovative features of Russ Bassett furniture, the department decided on Desience Dispatch Consoles.

Company representatives worked closely with the department’s communication supervisor to find the best solution and assisted in the coordination of the entire process. Completed “live” with little communication disruption, the installation has provided each dispatcher sit-stand options, control over his personal workspace, and better traffic flow.

To ensure the safety of its nearly 52,000 students, staff and faculty, the University of Pennsylvania has its own police department and emergency dispatch center known as PennComm. In 2002, its Department of Public Safety initiated a plan to tighten security by upgrading the campus with state-of-the-art technology. After the installation of electronic access control, blue-light emergency phones, and 86 pan-tilt-zoom CCTV cameras, the agency hired Russ Bassett’s Desience Dispatch team to find the right console solution.

PennComm wanted work stations with a minimum of four monitors and enough space to accommodate up to three keyboards, plus mouses and manuals. Issues that had to be addressed included limited space and exposed cables. Once the appropriate layout was determined, a Russ Bassett sales account executive made repeated visits to the site to measure and check accuracy. The solution provided sit-stand ability, safe storage of wires and cables, and ample personal work space for dispatchers to perform their jobs more effectively.

Police agencies can benefit from Russ Bassett’s government partners: GSA, CMAS and TXMAS. Visit russbassett.com to view the Desience Dispatch Gallery, featuring 20 photos of configuration and equipment options. The site also provides several before and after slide shows of police facilities that upgraded their systems using Russ Bassett products.

Watson Dispatch

A pioneer in ergonomically engineered furniture, Watson Dispatch offers exceptional ground-up structural design and cable-management solutions. Ideal for emergency command and control centers, its Synergy Solution offers three configurations: Linear, Full Tilt, and Center Lift. It provides personal fit and comfort for dispatchers and conforms to radio and telephone technologies and mapping applications.

Synergy consoles offer rigid frame construction, durable cast aluminum panel posts, and three equipment cavities with front-locking doors. Stress-tested to 50,000 weighed adjustment cycles, they are designed to meet the demands of 24/7 emergency environments. Synergy consoles offer: 1) a patented Total Comfort System (TCS) that gives the operator fingertip control of ergonomic, temperature, and lighting adjustments; 2) horizontal and vertical pathways for routing wires and efficient cable management; and 3) equipment cavities that can hold the largest CPU, with eight power outlets per cavity.

Committed to low-impact manufacturing practices and recycling programs, Watson uses recycled materials in most of its products. With more than 10,000 consoles installed in more than 2,000 call centers across the country, Watson has the experience necessary to provide rugged and comfortable consoles for public safety facilities. AutoCAD software is accessible on the website, so customers can design and visualize their own plans.

Facilities looking for customized solutions are initially contacted by procuring agencies that work with Watson’s nationwide network of representatives. They visit the site, present various scenarios, and provide console demonstrations. At the same time, project managers oversee a team of experts in manufacturing, engineering and space planning who will provide the customer with various configuration options.

Several years ago, Alaska’s City of Palmer Department of Public Safety realized it was time to make some much-needed changes to its dispatch center. With the recent Alaska Land Mobile Radio system required in all dispatch call centers, city officials quickly realized that their antiquated dispatch furniture was incompatible with the newer technology.

According to Director of Public Safety Jonathan Owen, “the desks were arranged side by side, and everyone had to yell across each other. It was a very uncomfortable place to work.” After researching a number of companies and obtaining price quotes, they decided on Watson Dispatch.

The solution included installation of four Synergy Center Lift Consoles with depth adjustment platforms, outfitted with personal mobile storage units, cavity fans and task lights. The new configuration has the dispatchers seated in a square with their backs toward the center of the room, allowing for enhanced communication, and ultimately, the ability to serve the citizens of Palmer more effectively. Literature, color schemes and images can be downloaded and viewed in the literature section of the company’s website.

Conclusion

The 21st century has seen an incredible surge in telecommunications technology. In the field of public safety and emergency 9-1-1 environments, the right solution includes not only high-tech equipment but state-of-the-art console designs. Whether handling an emergency call or communicating with other personnel via radio, today’s dispatchers need comfortable and efficient work areas to function at their optimum. Ergonomics, system configuration and flexible positioning of monitors all play an important part in building an efficient, and ultimately life-saving, dispatch center.

Susan Geoghegan graduated summa cum laude from Florida Gulf Coast University with a B.S. in criminal justice. She has previously been published in LAW and ORDER magazine and can be reached at sgeofl@embarqmail.com

Published in Public Safety IT, May/Jun 2009

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