Why do 911 dispatch centers, EMS, and PSAPs require preventative maintenance & regular console cleaning?
Command centers, control rooms, and 911 dispatches are essential organizations responsible for the safety of communities and large business operations. Today's unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic situation has brought its own set of challenges for businesses across the globe. This brings a new set of challenges for control room environments as operations rarely stop with continuous shifts and employee rotations 24/7, 365. In this article, we will present applicable preventive measures to help maintain proper cleaning and maintenance procedures in the control room which are also necessary to extend the life of your consoles.
6 Ways To Keep Dispatch Console Work Surface Clean:
You can prevent the spread of germs by keeping your personal space clean and germ-free. Here are the areas most likely to spread germs and how you can keep them from causing illness.
1) Choose a Product that Cleans & Disinfects at the Same Time:
When cleaning public spaces, choose products that clean and disinfect all at once (e.g. premixed store-bought disinfectant cleaning solutions and/or wipes when available). Cleaning products remove germs, dirt, and impurities from surfaces by using soap (or detergent) and water. Cleaning does not necessarily kill germs, but by removing them, it lowers their numbers and the risk of spreading infection. On the other hand, disinfecting products kill germs on surfaces using chemicals. Use only approved hard-surface disinfectants that have a Drug Identification Number (DIN). A DIN is an 8-digit number given by Health Canada or other certified products that confirm the disinfectant product is approved and safe for use in your country. (Source: Government of Canada). For U.S. based PSAPs, you can find information on the CDC website.
2) Declutter your Workspace & Keep Essential Equipment Only:
Rid your work surface of all unnecessary clutter. Keeping fewer things on your work surface seems so simple and is yet so often overlooked. Only keep the essentials easily accessible and visible, everything else can be a distraction and is taking up prime workspace real estate. For example, keyboards, computer mouses, radios, and CAD tablets.
3) Disinfect Your Work Area Before Leaving:
Before leaving, take a few minutes to clear your work surface from anything you may not have had time to do during your workday. This is a good way to not only close out your day but set yourself up for a productive clean start tomorrow. It is highly recommended to use a one-way wipe down. Wiping down a surface in one direction and not going back over it in the opposite direction will help ensure you do not deposit germs the area that was just cleaned up. Routinely wiping down high-touched surfaces such as workstations, countertops, equipment, accessories, and doorknobs is also an effective way to reduce the spread of germs inside the PSAP. Here is a list of some high-touch items that need to be cleaned before and after switching shifts in the emergency communications center.
- Computer Keyboard: A case study conducted by a UK consumer watchdog organization revealed that office keyboards have as many germs as office restrooms. However, it is more likely that the restrooms are being cleaned regularly by the maintenance crew. This is why sanitizing the keyboard before starting your shift is a good habit to take even without the current COVID19 situation. If you want to be more thorough, you can use a dip cotton swab in a mild cleaning solution and wipe the surfaces between each key. Then, use a lint-free cloth and the cleaning solution to gently wipe all other surfaces.
- Computer Mouse: It is not unusual to find 2 or 3 keyboards and mouses on each workstation in the PSAP. Similarly, computer mouses are handled as much as the keyboard and should be cleaned regularly. Someone may reach over to grab your mouse without asking, and contamination may occur. Simply wiping down with sanitizer cloth can make the difference.
- Phones/Headsets & Radios: When we speak, small saliva particles splatters off of our lips and spittle in the mouthpiece of our phones or headsets. These should ideally be replaced yearly, if not every six months. During COVID-19 times, it could also prove wise to have a dedicated phone for each operator. To clean it, use a slightly damp washcloth with minimal hand soap and wipe down any place with grime. Spray with aerosol and let air dry completely. After scrubbing your headset down, carefully test to see if either end of the headset can be removed for more thorough cleaning. It is important to note that your phone harbors germs from your hands, ears, face, and mouth. Sanitizing your phone before you take one more call.
- Chairs: 24/7 ergonomic chairs have arms that we touch with our hands as we sit, stand, or drum during idle time. Someone may come into your workspace and borrow your chair to use your computer or to sit and chat with a coworker. Consider everything you touch in a day, wiping your mouth, your nose, eating, sneezing, and then we touch our chair to stand or sit down when pushing it in and out from our desks. These should be cleaned weekly and wiped down with antibacterial wipes before and at the end of each shift in the PSAP.
4) Avoid Eating at Your Workstation:
Food crumbs can be a breeding ground for bacteria or germs. Keeping snacks sealed in airtight containers can help reduce leaving crumbs on the workstation. However, the best option is to avoid having lunch at your desk.
5) Promoting Social Distancing:
We recommend splitting up teams and using back-up control rooms to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to the entire team. Consider placing one team in the primary PSAP and another team in the backup control room to promote social distancing. This way, if one team gets infected, only half of the workforce is out of commission. If not currently possible, it can also help to consider having a physical separation between workstations. Sustema introduced ConsoleShield as a means to protect operators with a physical plexiglass barrier between each console. ConsoleShield serves to block the spread of air particles produced when coughing or sneezing. Learn more about our custom made plexiglass protectors.
In conclusion, the effectiveness of regular handwashing is undeniable and one of the best ways to remove germs, avoid getting sick, and prevent the spread of the virus to others. If soap and water are not readily available, you can always use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. For more information on how to protect yourself and others during the COVID-19 pandemic, please visit the CDC website or the Canadian government website.
Cleaning and disinfecting public spaces during COVID-19 (Gov. of Canada)
This document provides guidance on cleaning and disinfecting of public settings, including schools, universities, public libraries, museums, public transit, communal residences, and workplaces.