Monday 14 April 2014

What makes a great Control Room?

Control rooms evolve for the purpose of processing a variety of information, often resulting in service delivery - whether it be the deployment of resources or the application of procedures.

The most commonly represented control rooms in the media are the emergency services, which feature heavily on the television, in programmes like '999 Whats your Emergency' and Police Interceptors.

These forms of control room are the pinnacle of information processing, allowing calls, radio communications and data to be categorised into priorities, then acted upon.

So what makes a superior control room?

  • Excellent Layout
Each control room 'operator' has adequate room to carry out their task, this allows them to move unhindered in the course of their duty, with ready access to all paperwork and information technology systems.

  • Management Presence
Whether it be a police control room, or an insurance broker call centre, their are tiers to the management structure, allowing staff the constant ability to refer decisions to senior personnel or consult on instances for advice which may be considered out of the norm.

  • Fallback Mechanisms
Business continuity is critical in the modern era of reliance on computerised systems. Often when these systems fail to operate - usually during a critical period this will place an enormous amount of stress upon the operators. IT support needs to be readily available, both during hours of operation and during the quiet or downtime sessions.

  • Employee Engagement
Allowing staff at all levels to be able to provide an input into the service delivery allows a more conjoined approach, allowing ideas to be shared along with room for improvement.

Instead of asking a consult company to look at improvements, 
why not ask the people who do the job?

  • Secure Environment
To allow the sharing of sensitive information, the control room needs to be secured, both to the risk of crime and also commercial espionage. Achieving this can be simple from providing a simple combination lock on a door or digital swipe card system, up to and including manned guarding dependent on the risk level.

  • Highly Trained Staff
Call & Control centres are often an under-looked training opportunity due to the complexity of being able to deliver realistic based scenarios. Various companies offer scenario based training for certain incidents (fire / terrorist attack / technology failures), but there is a limit to external training based on the pure basis of the functioning in the control environment. NVQ's are available in Call Centre Management, Customer Service and Team Leadership - all of which will need to be readily adapted to fit the assessment criteria.

Emergency services use core training, based on thorough theoretical based study, followed by scenario and procedural coaching. Once the mentors are happy with their trainees progress (often 1:1 ratio) they are then allowed to take public calls, working from the least priority workload, up to emergency classification.

At each stage of this process, they are constantly reviewed and assessed, allowing opportunities for revision or increased training to take place before the next advancement can be undertaken.


So when you next see a control room on the television or call through to a call centre, you may now be able to understand the process involved in the development of the services, or likewise you may be able to identify where improvements could take place.

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