Dispatch Center Stays Grounded With New Equipment and Staticworx Anti Static Flooring
The job of police departments is to serve and protect. In their emergency dispatch centers, staff must be prepared 24/7, responding to situations that may threaten lives in the community. But what personnel are typically not prepared for is how to deal with the "invisible threat" of electrostatic discharge (ESD). More and more, police communications centers are discovering that the need for protection also extends to the installation of the right anti-static flooring to keep work sites safe.
The Lowell, MA Dispatch Communications Center, located north of Boston, receives tens of thousands of 9-1-1 phone calls every year, and it had done an adequate job of handling local emergencies. Still, the facility was hardly state of the art, and Mark Trudel, administrative officer, knew that an updated work environment would help dispatchers respond to calls faster and more efficiently. So, in 2009, Trudel and his associates decided it was time to transform their 750 square foot analog technology communications center into a modern, 2,500 SF plug and play Project 25 (P-25)- compliant operation to meet industry standards.
Trudel also knew that anti-static flooring was important, and he was concerned that problems sometimes manifest themselves after it's too late to take preventive measures. But he didn't realize all the variables that would soon come into play. Ultimately, Trudel would entrust the center's flooring to Staticworx, manufacturing static control solutions. However, Trudel needed to perform a good deal of due diligence before Staticworx got the job.
Dispatchers at the Lowell, MA Communications Center enjoy state-of-the-art technology without having to worry about electrostatic discharge (ESD).
Personnel at the Lowell police dispatch center appreciate the fact that rubber is slip-resistant and easy on their feet
Out with the Old, in with the New
It was clear that the old center in Lowell was cramped and lacked natural light. The consoles and furniture weren't flexible. The low ceiling and trampled carpet floor screamed 1950. To start transitioning, Lowell used a combination of internal and external resources. Kaestle Boos Associates, specialists in public safety design, was chosen for architectural needs. RDK Engineers brought strong mechanical and electrical design expertise. Techsite Flooring was hired based on their local experience in installing access flooring. And Trudel's previous background from the high-tech industry provided value-added skills to the project.
The initial decision was to go exclusively with carpet flooring. But Chris Leck, the contractor from Techsite, thought a better, more cost effective solution hadn't been fully explored. Leck realized that the missing element in the equation was the addition of the latest knowledge from the ESD industry. In early 2009, Chris contacted Staticworx President, Dave Long, regarding the right floor grounding solutions. The next step was setting up a meeting between the city of Lowell's project team and Staticworx.
Long explained that new designs in electronic communications equipment are especially vulnerable to ESD, with super-fast components that are sensitive to static discharges as low as 200 volts. According to Long, humans can't feel static discharges below 3,500 volts. But with tiny electronic devices, the impact can be dramatic: blown headsets, blank computer monitors, dropped calls and even data corruption and operations shutdown. Long stressed the need for a long-term ESD solution when split-second response time and public safety were at risk. So, the parties decided to review best-in-class practices. They visited about 30 other 9-1-1 operations in New England before they reached a final decision about how to get grounded. According to Mark LaFleur, a project manager with RDK Engineers, "It was a bidder's responsibility to show us installed products so our end user could make an informed choice."
Rubber Meets the Road
Lowell's decision was to go with static-free, fault-tolerant Eclipse EC rubber and ESD carpet tiles to protect all the raised access floors. The new flooring, manufactured by Staticworx, meets the Motorola R56 grounding standard, received the best anti static floor rating from MIT Lincoln Laboratories, and was honored with the ESD Journal Seal Approval as the only static control flooring suitable for Class 0 ESD applications. It also prevents the chance of ESD events that will harm equipment if people don't wear special antistatic shoes and grounding bracelets, which is the case in 9-1-1 centers.
Trudel was sold on the rubber option after seeing it at work in the Hampton, NH, 9-1-1-call center and reviewing its antic-static properties. "We felt that rubber provided the combined benefits of an easy surface for rolling chairs with significant anti-fatigue properties for dispatchers who choose to stand rather than sit at their height-adjustable work stations," he says. In addition to being resilient, rubber also happens to be the easiest floor to maintain in a communications center because it only requires damp mopping and it never needs wax; it also lasts forever. In addition, Staticworx's adhesive free carpet squares were installed as a sound inhibitor in the general areas outside the workstations. The city even authorized the installation of Staticworx flooring in the emergency center's conference room.
The upshot? The new center is operating as Trudel had envisioned, with faster and more efficient response time. The dispatchers are more comfortable in their modern, new surroundings. In fact, the new site is receiving unexpected rave reviews since its opening. The city helped fund a $3 million renovation that combined municipal money, a 9-1-1 revenue-sharing program, and a Project 25 grant. The new center was designed to use all digital communications equipment, graphical user interfaces, GUI technology and even ergonomic, height-adjustable workstation consoles. Since the center is now located in what had been a garage, the ceilings are high, and the architects took advantage of the available natural lighting to create a brighter, warmer and more comfortable environment. The advanced technology, available at the dispatchers' fingertips, includes multiple screens, monitors and high-tech furniture that look like it's out of a futuristic NASA space command center. Numerous visitors have come from public safety groups, newspapers and other media outlets. The center was even selected as a location for an upcoming movie.
"Our vendors worked with us to help us build this center on budget and on time," says Trudel. "That is a rare accomplishment in construction and a credit to all of those involved."