What a surprise! I recently ran across an article in the Washingtonian Magazine discussing one of my first emergency operations center projects. You’ll find the article, Where the Action Is, in the Feb 2013 issue written by Carol Ross Joyht with photo by Roy Blunt. In this excellent photo you’ll see examples of our first-generation Communicator workstations designed specifically for emergency management applications.
The original project was for the Washington DC Emergency Management Agency, then presumably relocated and renamed. Its current staffing includes the FBI, Secret Service, FEMA, DC PD, and is now called the emergency operations center for the Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency (HSEMA) and referred to as the Mayor’s command center.
I recall the substantial hours we invested in space planning and designing the command center furniture for this project; much of which went more to original thinking and ergonomics than anything else. However, the process went smoothly and our customer was open to our proposals and as you can see, our command center furniture is still in use after many years.
I was initially engaged by an integrator out of Virginia who acted as my conduit to our customer throughout the entire process. The command center furniture for this project was designed specifically for emergency operations centers and was the template for furniture generations to follow. The project kicked off with lengthy discussions about command center furniture, control room design, space planning, video wall systems and how they all come together to create an effective command and control environment where each of the 64 staff had everything they needed to do the job. This meant providing command center furniture designed with tools placed so that the users could communicate with each other, the outside, easily see the large video displays and move unobstructed within the space.The first recommendation was for a control room console that could be modified for a broader command center application. This led to the aptly named Communicator workstation that was designed for computer monitors lowered on an adjustable shelf so that the user could see over and around the monitor. The adjustable monitor platform was wide enough to add a small PC as shown in the photo, or installed in a rack below the desktop. Given that the 64 staff had to be comfortably seated in a relatively compact space, we designed a 3’x’3 workstation that provided adequate desktop space for monitor, books, phone and writing materials. Each of these workstations was freestanding and modular, which made them easy to reconfigure when needed. The included keyboard/mouse platform was an ergonomic feature that by its placement maximized the desktop space and kept the desktop relatively uncluttered.
Our space planning expertise led the design team to the idea of grouping staff with related activities in V-formation facing the large video screens. This unique V-formation was designed so that the staff could easily see the video screens without having to look over, or around the heads of those sitting next to them.
This emergency operations center project was a learning experience for all, and I’m pleased to say led to others, many of which can be found on the emergency operations centers page.
Our Communicator workstations are now available in a variety of designs with unique features developed specifically for emergency operations centers. If you have questions about our emergency management furniture and video wall systems, call or email me. I can help with ideas.