Control Room Considerations for the Campus Environment

Control Room Considerations for the Campus Environment

The design of a modern healthcare facility/hospital or educational campus must take a number of factors into consideration: parking, traffic patterns, the ability for certain areas to be easily accessible to the public, accessibility of rooms, protection of critical assets and people, and much, much more. On top of all of these elements, one overarching, critical characteristic is each building’s overall safety and security, as well as the technology implemented to keep patients, students, visitors, and staff safe.

Whether it’s called a command center, dispatch control, security monitoring room or security operations center (SOC), each campus needs a dedicated space where security officials and dispatchers can convene in an effort to effectively respond to incidents as they arise. The goal of any of these rooms is to monitor, assess, and respond to a variety of threats and incidents, but there are a number of considerations to keep in mind in crafting this environment.

Video Wall Clarity

When it comes to building an SOC, there’s a reason why large-scale overview video walls that showcase a number of incoming data points are dominant. Uniform and integrated visual elements are imperative to the success of an SOC or control room in a campus environment, as dispatchers and first responders require the most up-to-date and complete information regarding incoming securityrelated events.

These video walls offer a viewable area for a wide variety of devices and data within a single pane-of-glass view, with the heart of this mission the monitors and displays that project relevant and critical information using strategically placed video wall technology. While the size of these displays can vary significantly, they can also be commercial grade, taking into account lighting conditions, location, content, and hours of operation.

Data Generation and Storage

Almost all of the latest devices and applications are driving big data; the amount of information available to command centers will only continue to increase, and as analytics improve, effective data aggregation must follow. Command centers in the campus environment should include dashboards that can make sense of a large amount of information and put it in a digestible format to drive streamlined decision-making. For both this data that has been used and what remains unused, the next crucial step involves ensuring its protection and efficient storage. As more and more organizations turn to the cloud for remote access and flexibility, this also creates a greater possibility for cyber threats, which must be considered alongside physical security in today’s SOCs.

Lighting and Temperature

There’s a lot of research that looks at the effects of ultraviolet light and blue light on humans, citing that these kinds of lighting can cause more fatigue. For a control room, activity must be monitored 24 hours a day, seven days a week, meaning dispatchers must adapt to watching screens for up to eight hours a day, which can do a number on their circadian rhythms. Installing screens that are purpose-built to address this issue can be an important step toward building a healthier environment for controllers.

Additionally, both lighting and equipment radiate heat at higher levels than a normal room, so compensating for this is important to maintain the comfort levels of the security dispatchers in a campus setting. This can be achieved by minimizing the output of heat from various systems by relocating them to other rooms adjacent to the control room. Not only does this reduce the temperature, but it also reduces the noise level in the room for easier communication between dispatchers.

Dispatcher Line of Sight and Comfort

In many of the control rooms seen today, dispatchers have to shift from one program to another to collect relevant information, or only a single workstation is available for multiple people, greatly inhibiting the ability of dispatchers to keep critical information front and center in the event of an incident. Control room dispatchers must be able to achieve high levels of situational awareness at all times, which can be facilitated through the implementation of line-of-sight considerations.

Placing monitors, computers, and consoles within reach is paramount. Ergonomics also plays a critical role: Security control room dispatchers must often work at a single location with minimal breaks to field incoming alarms and monitor a facility, but sitting at a desk for eight or more hours can negatively impact the body. Implementing an ergonomic console that takes into account eye-level information can help keep them comfortable and alert to react appropriately in any situation.

Technology Ease of Use

Having to sort through equipment racks or a rat’s nest of cords to access hardwired systems poses not only a security threat but also a hazard for users. Having a well-maintained and easy-touse SOC can mean the difference between a streamlined response and a missed opportunity for addressing a threat on a campus. Integrators should make assessments based on these factors and keep equipment organized to avoid confusion when servicing or troubleshooting technology.

Campus environments rely on their SOC for continuity of operations, the safety and security of students, patients, and staff, and in times of an emergency. As risks become more severe, a complete situational picture is necessary, leaving decision makers to look at a SOC as a critical part of the campus’s security plan. It is therefore important to note best practices and considerations in building such a center. In many cases, engaging with a partner that has a solid understanding of the needs campus environments require with regard to control rooms is imperative.

This article originally appeared in the July/August 2019 issue of Campus Security Today.


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