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Did you know that the aesthetic impact of 911 dispatch furniture can have a lasting effect on your team? That effect - good or bad - influences focus, efficiency, comfort and, ultimately, a center's churn rate. And the ripples of your purchase impact the economy. Learn how your single 911 dispatch furniture purchase can do so much.


First, why are we talking about 911 dispatch console materials?

Any prudent purchase will be grounded in good research. Recently, more of you have asked us to explain why we use wood-core materials in our design and manufacturing. We're glad you asked.

This wraps up our three part educational series about the advantages of using wood-core substrate in dispatch consoles design and construction. If you haven't already, take a moment to catch-up by reading PART 1 and PART 2 where you'll learn more about why this topic has become more important. You'll, also discover the strength and durability benefits of a blended materials approach.


This installment focuses on the softer, long-reaching benefits to choosing 911 dispatch furniture made with a blend of wood-core, laminate and steel:

    • Operator comfort and focus
    • Impact on regional economics
    • Land and forrest stewardship

Operator focus and comfort

The Impact of Office Design on Business Performance reported:

In a survey in 2003 by Management Today magazine, virtually all (97 per cent) of those responding said that they regarded their place of work as a symbol of whether or not they were valued by their employer. Yet only 37 per cent thought that their offices had been designed ‘with people in mind’, and no less a third said that they were too ashamed of their offices to bring back colleagues or clients. This is the kind of gap which should worry management – and which, were it to occur in any other discipline in business, would almost certainly get urgent attention in the [proverbial] boardroom.

In PSAPs and Operations Centers, furniture is replaced only every decade or so. This makes an informed purchase even more crucial. The biggest bang for the buck may not be the low-price leader. However, the investment you make today can payoff over time by reducing money spent on churn resulting from health or psychological dissatisfaction.

As we have previously discovered, and shared, compassion fatigue affects as many as eight of ten dispatchers. A thoughtfully designed PSAP can help. Lighting, color, quick access to personal belongings, and view to the outdoors can help telecommunicators de-stress more effectively. Some companies hire organizational psychologists to help create higher performance environments. While this strategy is not part of the PSAP or Ops Center culture, your procurement team can learn what to look for and make choices that benefit the team.

In a previous blog we shared some console trends that put the user first. These include furniture-based health and comfort features including height-adjustability, air and heating, and focus features including ambient and task lighting. In addition to feature sets like these, the shape of the furniture and finish options play an important role in creating an atmosphere that team members want to work in - one that balances productivity and focus with high-stress call recovery.

Judith Heerwagen, a former scientist with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory who is now a program expert with the General Services Administration, declares:

  • A building can positively affect ability by providing comfortable ambient conditions, by enabling individual control and adjustment of conditions, and by reducing health and safety risks. Negative impacts on ability to do work are associated with conditions that are uncomfortable, distracting, hazardous or noxious.
  • A building can positively affect motivation by providing conditions that promote positive functioning, psychological engagement and personal control. Moods create the ‘affective context’ for thought processes and behaviors and are directly tied to motivation.

Here are some tested tips for putting your furniture to work well beyond height-adjustability.


Finishes / Color

According to research teams at HOK, a global design, architecture and engineering firm, there are some general rules that apply to use of color. They recommend you use color strategically to promote behavior and feelings that are psychologically motivated, not preference driven.

  • Blue is calming and cooling and promotes mental control and clear thinking.
  • Pink decreases feelings of irritation, aggression, loneliness, discouragement and burden.
  • Red enhances feelings of strength and energy; it is associated with vitality and ambition. 
  • Yellow makes people feel clear-headed and alert, allowing for clear thinking for decision making.
  • Orange helps ease emotions and boost self-esteem. It creates enthusiasm for life.
  • Brighter colors (reds, as well as blues and greens) are associated with higher focus and task accuracy.

With the right combination of surface finishes, your console furniture will positively influence the "affective context," impact of mood, in your Center. Both the tactile feel of the surface and color/style make an impact. Laminate finishes on wood-core surfaces and cabinets feel warmer to the touch and can lend a sense of comfort and calm. Screens, surfaces, and cabinets are all excellent candidates for applying intentional texture and color.

  • Console furniture screens and dividers are a perfect place to use pops of color that influence mood and boost focus.  
  • Surfaces provide PSAPs the opportunity to apply soft whites, subtle wood grains and textures. These can provide visual interest and amplify or diffuse light. 
  • 911 dispatch console cabinets are fine candidates for solids and wood grains. Choose light to medium, warm wood tones to soften rooms with little natural light. Select solids for a sleek, clean atmosphere.


HOK confirms something many of us know to be true - noise is an issue in most workplace environments. Since noise can enable or disable productivity, depending on individual preferences and the type of work being done, it is important to strike a balance. Perceived noise is usually higher in open office environments including PSAPs, and the level of distraction can depend on how positions are placed relative to one another. 

When choosing furniture, you can reduce noise contamination by:

  1. selecting higher panels to lessen noise contamination in high call volume teams,
  2. choose consoles that sit side-by-side rather than front-to-front which will funnel sound away from neighbors instead of at them.


Boost the economy

In addition to maximizing the features on your console, consider the long-reaching benefits of your purchase. Your PSAP relies on a healthy economy and tax dollars to fund technology, staffing and building improvements. Your purchase becomes part of the economic loop. And your purchase is a vote for quality and workplace standards beyond the PSAP.

While many big-box companies have found they can increase their own margins by creating cheaper-made products that can be replaced with frequency, operations and dispatcher desks should not fall into this consumables category. It is tempting to buy on a dime, especially when tax-based funding is low. However, 911 furniture must be built to high standard - standards that are best upheld under USA manufacturing guidelines for quality and safety and are proven to last until your next finding cycle.

The Boston Consulting Group, a global management consulting firm, compiled data that reinforces the perception that US goods are superior. They found that 60 percent of Chinese consumers are willing to pay more for products labeled “Made in the USA” than for those labeled “Made in China.”

Depositphotos_102233796_l-2015-healthy economic cycle

Beyond safety and stability

Your dollars impact job creation and working conditions.

Research has shown that buying products manufactured int he USA has double the positive impact on national and regional economies than purchases of goods made overseas. Job creation is a primary area of impact. This finite list gives you an idea of manufacturing-related jobs that are outsourced when goods are produced overseas:

  • Skilled machinists - steel, wood, assembly
  • Operations administration +management
  • Procurement
  • Shipping +Logistics
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Building maintenance
  • Equipment repair

Manufacturers in the US uphold fair working standards. This is not the case in overseas locations where bending humanitarian regulations to cut costs often goes unchecked. When you buy USA made goods, you contribute to healthier workplaces and families who are more apt to invest back in the communities where they live.

Long-term impact

Healthy companies invest in product innovation. The past few decades have seen an increased wave of research and production of new digital technologies, materials, and automation systems. Many of the top innovative companies in the world are based in US cities. Promoting innovative progress will help create a healthy economy.

According to Susan Witt, Executive Director of the E.F. Schumacher Society, a tax-exempt non-profit focused on national economic viability:

"While now we're largely a service-providing nation, we're still just a generation away from being a nation of producers. The question is: what economic framework will help us reclaim those skills and that potential....Supporting local trade helps recreate the diversity of small businesses that are flexible and can adjust to changing needs and market conditions."

This sentiment becomes relevant if, for example, the price of oil rises to a point that foreign-made goods are no longer cheap to import. Buying USA goods today stokes the fire for a healthy manufacturing climate tomorrow.

Impact on resources and land

Regardless your stance on climate change, it is proven that high emissions result in smog, reduced atmospheric visibility, and in some cases acid rain and the reduced health of plants and trees. The US has standards in place to lessen harmful impact of emissions. Other countries do not follow strict guidelines.

According to the folks at

"There is one obvious environmental advantage to manufacturing items here (USA): reduced carbon emissions associated with transportation. An item made in Los Angeles that ends up on a store shelf in Hollywood, Florida, traveled roughly 2,700 miles, while an item made in Beijing, China, traveled nearly three times that distance. Shorter distances traveled reduce the fuel (and accompanying emissions) needed to move the item from manufacturer to store shelf."

Since other countries operate with low- or un-regulated emissions standards, making a responsible buying choice is one way we can vote for healthy air in our own nation. Plus, we won't be contributing to ill health in other nations.

Material differences

We have shared that our blended materials designs are influenced by both manufacturing experience and feedback from end users. We use steel for structure and stability and wood for cabinets and surfaces.

steel frame

Striking a balance is not only more user-friendly, it is more gentle to the environment.

If sustainable purchasing is important to you, it in relevant to know that steel requires three times as much energy to extract, manufacture, transport, and construct as its wood counterpart. In general, products made from steel, glass, plastic, cement, or brick require approximately 24, 14, 6, and 4.5 times more energy, respectively, than does wood to make a final product.

The commercial furniture publication Interiors and Sources further shares:

No matter the form a finished product takes the inherent strength and resilience of wood fiber delivers strength, workability, performance, and value. The basic nature of this material makes composite wood panels one of the best environmental choices you can make for furniture, fixtures, and interiors. Consider this crash course of facts:

Wood is one of the planet’s most easily renewed resources. Annually, U.S. forests generate more wood than is harvested. In 2006 there was 72% more net growth than total removals.

Composite wood panels utilize wood fiber left over from other manufacturing processes. The material would otherwise be destined for landfills or incinerators.

Composite wood panels were shown to be “better than climate neutral” in a recent lifecycle inventory analysis. The wood in composite panels acts as a carbon sink, sequestering more carbon than is expended in their production, transportation, and installation.

Rare and endangered wood species are spared by decorative composite wood panels. High-definition printed and textured decorative surfaces offer the beauty of any wood type, but with better design consistency and durability.

Carbon dioxide emissions are more than three times higher for steel than a comparable amount of wood. And while wood accounts for 46 percent of industrial raw materials (by weight) worldwide, it uses only 4 percent of the energy required for processing.

Why we do what we do

We believe good stewardship, of all resources, is a standard worth living by. This commitment coupled with a love for the beautiful land that surrounds us inspires us to do better everyday.


Watson's Practical Environmentalism philosophy guides our operations and drives an aggressive pursuit to minimize impact on the lands we love. We achieve this with a disciplined structure of environmental and financial accountability including regular audits to improve materials use and waste disposal practices.


At Watson we take land and resources impact seriously. We use routers and lasers that nest materials to reduce the amount of scrap. Metal scrap is recycled. The sawdust generated during cabinet fabrication is pressed into bio-fuel briquettes (shown right) and used at near-by paper mills. Learn more about our sustainable manufacturing processes and proven record of improvement.

When you choose Watson Consoles, by extension, you are contributing to a healthy industry and healthy land.

You can purchase with intention

Now you know a more about wood and wood-core materials and the benefits of using them for commercial-grade 911 technology furniture components. When it comes to the viability of wood as a useful, durable, and value-added furniture material, you can understand why we side with the 75 million+ that gather at dining tables, chase big dogs across floors, climb ladders and stairs, rocket down bumpy roads in pinewood-derby cars, and the dispatchers that height-adjust desks an average of 12,323 times over the course of their career.


Your consoles are not just another purchase. They are a critical tool in your high performance team environment. Your center can benefit from a lighter and brighter workplace that helps psychologically stabilize dispatcher teams, boost engagement and satisfaction, and mitigate turnover by contributing to a comfortable, useful, and inspired team space.

For more perspective on Wood vs Steel, check out part 1 and part 2 of this three-part series.

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