The DC Office of Unified Communication is responsible for answering 911 emergency calls as well as 311 calls for city services, information, and non-emergency police services. And in 2019 alone, they answered 1.4 million 911 calls and another 1.8 million 311 calls. With all dispatchers located in a single room and working 24/7 on outdated equipment, the organization needed a way to upgrade 156 positions within their compact space, while accommodating the needs of their vital workforce — and staying fully functional throughout the install.
As the lifeline of the District of Columbia, dispatchers at the DC OUC have an extremely stressful job. In addition to communicating with local fire, EMT, and police, they need to constantly collaborate with sister offices in Maryland and Virginia as people cross over the border. That means communication can’t be lost for an instant.
Before pursuing a remodel, dispatchers’ desks were small and crowded together, without proper lighting or climate control. And because their current workstations were outdated, there were also challenges when it came to technology. The organization needed a better system for cable management and equipment accessibility as well as faster response for IT issues given the critical nature of the environment.
“Anything we can do to reduce the stress levels of employees is something we want to shoot for. They already have a stressful job. Whether it’s bringing in new equipment or new technology, our goal is to lessen their overall stress load.”
Karl Millard, 911 Operations Manager
Knowing that employee satisfaction was key, the DC Office invited Watson and four other major console manufacturers to showcase their equipment. After presenting the Mercury Pro the Management Team, dispatchers had a chance to evaluate the consoles for themselves. Employees particularly liked how durable and spacious Mercury Pro was, with features that made it easier to do their job.
“The distinguishing factor of choosing the Watson equipment was feedback from our employees.”
Teddy Kavaleri, Chief IT Officer
After three months of design refinements, the install began in September 2019. Since the Office of Unified Communications didn’t have the luxury of temporarily shutting down, a live cut-over was required. Two focal directions were constructed by placing consoles for 311 and 911 supervisors on platforms, with theater-style rows and bullpen seating for dispatchers to create more space and keep team members facing their supervisors.
Height-adjustable desks and monitors were added to allow employees to work in a way that suits them best. And with Mercury Pro’s full suite of environment controls including heat, air, ambient lighting, and individually dimmable task lighting, plus surface-located plug-and-play ports and tech bays housing up to 20 additional technology connections, they would also have everything they need to stay up-and-running within arm’s reach.
“Before the remodel, we were always hot or cold, and we were kind of on top of each other. It’s a big difference between what we have now and what we had then.”
Melissa Dane, 911 Dispatcher
IT capabilities got an upgrade as well, with the ability to reach cables and tech cabinets even when the position is active, and power and low-voltage cables housed in dedicated channels to make troubleshooting easier and reduce signal interference.
From day 1, Watson’s installers ensured that curtains were up, noise and dust were at a minimum, and the OUC staff had what they needed to be comfortable during the transition.
Since completion, the feedback the DC Office of Communications has gotten from their employees has been extremely positive. Dispatchers are happy with the new space and functionality of the consoles, the IT team is pleased with how easy it is to get to the equipment, and everyone was impressed with the professional manner in which Watson came in and treated the staff.