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Cold and flu season is nearly upon us. Experts agree that you are most at risk for catching (and sharing) viral infections between October and May. When your team is committed to front-line community help, keeping sick days at bay is a necessity. Making sure your dispatch console clean is one way you can guard against the spread of cold and flu germs.


In this installment we'll share some basic tactics for reducing the spread of illness at your PSAP including:

  • the differences between cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting + why it matters
  • and a 1-2-3 knock-out that will help stop germ spread in your PSAP

Do I need to clean, sanitize, or disinfect my dispatch console surfaces?

According to commercial cleaning expert, Robert Neitzel:

Cleaning a surface simply removes visible debris, dirt and dust. Sanitizing a surface makes that surface sanitary or free of visible dirt contaminants that could affect your health. Sanitizing is meant to reduce, not kill, the occurrence and growth of bacteria, viruses and fungi. Disinfecting a surface will “kill” the microscopic organisms as claimed on the label of a particular product.

petri-dish reinforces Neitzel's point:

A traditional all-purpose cleaner is designed to lift dirt off a surface. While many germs will be physically removed during this process (and ending your cleaning here is certainly adequate for much of the home), the all-purpose cleaner won’t get everything.

A disinfectant, on the other hand, is designed to kill bacteria, germs, etc. due to the special ingredients it contains. It is not designed to lift dirt off a surface or make it shiny like an all-purpose cleaner would.So here’s the key: if you want to clean and disinfect a surface, you need to begin by cleaning it—removing the dirt, using an all-purpose cleaner—and then apply disinfectant afterward to get rid of the bacteria. This is referred to as the “two-step” cleaning process.

And based on the results her anti-bacterial test, Annie Pryor, Biochemistry PhD, mom and germ-fighter offers:

... 3% hydrogen peroxide and the Zylast hand sanitizer seemed to do a great job. The
Method All Purpose Natural Surface Cleaner wins the award for my favorite smelling cleaning product.

In order to reduce and eliminate flu and cold germs in your PSAP, you need to use anti-microbial rated disinfectants on all personal and communal surfaces that folks regularly touch. NOTE: be sure to follow the product directions for optimal results.

For more on anti-microbials, read Do antimicrobial laminates promote health in PSAPs.


Knock-out sick germs


Most of us know the basics - wash hands, cover your cough, don't touch your eyes and nose. Some of these are worth repeating. And there's a new sneeze style meant to better contain germ spread.

Wash your hands - often.

Hand washing has proven to be one of the most effective methods for fighting germ spread. Do you know the history? The discovery of the impact of hand washing is an interesting story. You can read about it here.

According to the CDC:

Handwashing is like a "do-it-yourself" vaccine—it involves five simple and effective steps (Wet, Lather, Scrub, Rinse, Dry) you can take to reduce the spread of diarrheal and respiratory illness so you can stay healthy. Regular handwashing, particularly before and after certain activities, is one of the best ways to remove germs, avoid getting sick, and prevent the spread of germs to others. It's quick, it's simple, and it can keep us all from getting sick. Handwashing is a win for everyone, except the germs.

Sneeze like a vampire.

Wiki How and the CDC agree that containment is key:


If you don't have a tissue, the best way to catch your sneeze is to bend your elbow and hold it close to your face while sneezing.This works best if you are wearing long sleeves. The goal is to contain the sneeze with your clothing so it doesn't spread into the air.

For printable posters to post in your PSAP, visit the CDC's site, Preventing the Flu.

Know when to stay home, and stay home.

This is hard for a lot of folks, especially when teams depend on you. However, germs spread fast! Environmental microbiologist Kelly Reynolds at the University of Arizona in Tucson conducted an experiment in her office to track the spread of germs. Within four hours more than 50 percent of surfaces were contaminated with the virus of the sick co-worker. Yikes!

If that's not enough, 911 dispatchers might consider the implications of #2 on Forbes' Three Reasons to Stop Coming to Work Sick:

"When you don’t feel well, your thinking is muddled and even doing a mundane task can be exhausting. Not to mention that you may be taking a medication with side effects that affects your cognitive thinking or motor skills. So heading into work is probably not the best choice."

2) Keep your dispatch console clean

Don't eat at your desk.

Not only is it tempting to snack at your dispatch console, sometimes schedules make it a necessity.

Unfortunately, not only does germ transfer go up on your surface, your keyboard is likely to have a higher level of bacterial contamination than those of co-workers who aren't eating at their station. If you have access to a sealed keyboard, that helps. In either case, be sure to wipe down your

keyboard daily. And, remember, to turn it upside down and gently tap it to dislodge crumbs that may be harboring bacteria growth.


Wash your cup.

You might be surprised how many people do not wash their cups regularly. And why should they? They are the only ones using them, right? That may be the case. What you may not register are the times you touch the pump pot to refill your coffee - the one that was touched by the co-worker with the budding cold. Then you touched your cup handle, maybe the edge as you picked it up to move it across your desk.

All of these actions increase the risk of introducing germs to your nose and mouth, where they enter your system and blossom into a cold or flu.

Wipe down surfaces after every shift.

This is especially important for shift-workers and when dispatch consoles are shared. At minimum, be sure to include high-touch surfaces including:

  1. surface
  2. keyboard
  3. mouse
  4. phone
  5. equipment power buttons + adjustment controls
  6. adjustable lighting arms
  7. chair arms
lysol wipe

3) Wipe down communal areas

Use tested anti-bacterial wipes to wipe down knobs, switches, faucets, and remotes at shift changes.

Here, at Watson Consoles headquarters, we have volunteer opportunities and assigned office chores for keeping communal areas clean. You might try assigning one day of the week for a month then switching it up. This way it doesn't become a burden for any one person.

It's also a good idea to stock hand sanitizers in easy access areas.

And, while lot's of people are not a fan of wasteful paper goods, stocking paper-towels in the kitchen and bathroom helps capture and dispose of germs during cold and flu season.

What more can I do?

We've covered a few easy tips to reduce germ spread at and around your dispatch consoles. There is plenty more you can do to boost your personal health, immunity and resistance.


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