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Letting dispatchers adapt their workstation


Dispatchers have trouble adapting their workstations to their needs. The software and the furniture used in command centers and the IT equipment lack flexibility in terms of accessibility to adapt to the dispatcher’s needs. Dispatchers must be able to adapt their environment to them, software and hardware.


Dispatchers have trouble adapting their workstations to their needs.

We asked dispatchers what were the accessibility features (or lack thereof) which most impacted them at work. The solutions implemented in command centers do not take into account the full range of body sizes when designing products or environments, this includes software and hardware. By not providing proper customization capabilities dispatchers have to work around the constraints of their tools, which negatively impacts their focus and therefore their productivity.


The software and the furniture used in command centers and the IT equipment lack flexibility in terms of accessibility to adapt to the dispatcher’s needs.

When dispatchers lack the capacity to customize their workstations they can suffer from fatigue, stress, burnout, and even work-related injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome. These problems are typical in centers that use not only old equipment that needs to be updated to keep up with the demands of the job, but it is also present in centers with poorly designed tools and equipment, that lack flexibility to adapt. For example, a dispatcher working with a CAD system that becomes unusable whenever they change the display resolutions is not a flexible tool. Another example is when the icons and colors used in critical software cannot be changed to accommodate people who are color blind. A third example is furniture that was designed taking into account people with short height while neglecting the body shape and size of really tall users. This results in control consoles that work fine for some people but are impractical and outright uncomfortable for the rest of the staff.

Dispatchers must be able to adapt their environment to them, software and hardware.

In an ideal world, control consoles should be pretty ergonomic. Each one could be adjusted in terms of height, with separate work surfaces for monitors, speakers, and keyboards as well as mice, so everyone can set things up to their comfort. When it comes to software each console operator should have their own user on the console so any settings they might have will be saved and allow other staff members to quickly get comfortable at the workstation at the start of their shift.


Dispatchers with control consoles that adapt to their needs are bound to suffer less stress and be more productive at work because they don’t have to worry about adjusting their tools every day. With easy to use, customization options like mouse sensitivity, icon colors, display resolutions, light filters, height adjustability, dual worksurfaces, storage options for personal belongings, and even a personal environmental system, supervisors can be at ease knowing their team is comfortable and that morale is high. Also, the IT department can rest assured that by having easy-to-understand customization options, operators will not accidentally cause the system to crash whenever they need to change the display resolution.


When designing a control console, remember that body size can vary widely, and using averages alone is not sufficient. It doesn’t matter if your center has 22 consoles or just 5. Imagine for a second that you’ve got a dispatcher who’s 6 foot 2 tall, but all the consoles in the room were designed for a person who’s 5 feet tall, and the software was designed for someone who has perfect 20/20 vision.


Instead of using averages alone, it is necessary to deal with ranges of sizes. Percentiles are a way of expressing these ranges, indicating the percentage of people within a population who have a certain body dimension. For example, the 5th percentile female height means that 95% of the female population is taller, and only 5% of the population is the same height or shorter. This allows designers to take into account the full range of body sizes when designing products or environments.


How can agencies create a comfortable working environment?

Agencies should work much harder to accommodate the vast variety of people that they are trying to hire. The control center should provide dispatchers to perform their jobs in a productive, healthy, and sustainable way. The workstations should be designed to adapt to the user’s needs and not the other way around, this includes the specialized furniture like the control consoles, but also the software with its accessibility features.


Are you remodeling your 911 control center? We can help.

Our more than 25 years of experience in this field allows us to help 911 centers with their modernization plans. We look forward to future opportunities to help organizations in the public safety industry achieve their goals.


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