Control room layout and equipment
In last weeks article I talked about the functions and principles of control rooms and how I like them to operate. In this weeks article I’ll go a little more practical and I’ll talk about the actual equipment I like to have. I’ll also talk about different pieces of technology that I use when setting up a temporary control room but which really could be applied to any control room.
As you will have probably noticed from the control room standards checklist I have a limited number of items of equipment for the control room set up. I’m a minimalist by nature and I like things clear, uncluttered and functional. I like a clear desk (even if my own desk struggles to keep clear) in a control room with minimal clutter. The equipment only works well if it’s in an environment where it can work well. A state of the art laptop is useless if you haven’t the space on a desk to use it. So to the equipment. I’ll leave the obvious stuff like desk and chair out because I’ve already mentioned it. I’ll start with the basics and work through:
1. Computer equipment
2. Communications equipment
3. Safety and emergency equipment
4. Documentation and folders
The basis of any good control room is a decent laptop or desktop computer. I personally prefer a laptop. Doesn’t need to be anything fancy. Just a regular laptop with Microsoft Office and other pieces of software you may require. This laptop is going to contain all of the critical and up to date information for the site so I like to make sure that I have a couple of redundancies for backing up the data on it. Firstly I’ll auotomtically back it up to a cloud service such as Dropbox (my preference), OneDrive or Google drive.
In addition to the cloud option I also have an external hard drive connected to the laptop which is automatically backing up files to it. This is for two reasons. Firstly in case my internet goes down and I can’t back up to the cloud temporarily. Secondly it is in case I have to evacuate quickly in an emergency. I can simply grab the hard drive and leave and set up very quickly with any computer at my secondary control point with all of my data.
I also keep a very handy miniature A4 printer in my portable control room case. If you have a fixed control room you can obviously go with a larger printer/copier product but for me this little piece of equipment is ideal for quick set up and its small it can be stored out-of-the-way.
Scanning is always a handy option to have. If you are moving from location to location or even if you don’t have the facility to store large amounts of paperwork a small handy scanner is ideal. I use a simple phone app called Pro-scanner by Readdle which uses the camera on my phone and converts multiple page photos to PDFs and automatically uploads them to the Dropbox folder associated with the client, event or location.
The obvious 2 options here are telephones and two-way radio equipment. Firstly to mention telephones. If you are lucky enough to be in a fixed location then I obviously advise the combination of a fixed landline and a mobile phone option. If you are mobile then maybe a secure landline isn’t an option. In this case your stuck with a mobile ( I prefer to have two of them on different networks just in case). This should be a control room phone and not the mobile of the controller. Obviously a charger but I also keep multiple Anker charging packs throughout my gear. If the power goes or I need to move the control room in an emergency I always have a few of these lying around.
For two-way radio its better to have a base station at your control room. It will get a much better range particularly if you are in a fixed site location and can put in a repeater. Technology advances in digital radios are making these so accessible nowadays and if you can afford a set of these that’s great. Most security companies will have their own on site radios on a private network which again is a benefit (don’t forget to pay for your Comreg licence) . If you are a smaller operation then packing a set of two-way radios in your control kit is a must. I’ve used a model called Retevis for the past few years and found them fantastic value for money and really good quality at the price. I use this set for events and these for when a more low-key approach is required. They fit in a small bag, the acoustic tube earpieces are interchangeable and they have never let me down in terms of reliability. I wont get too bogged down in radios but if you want to read a good article on the subject from Joe LaSorsa take a look here .
Safety and emergency equipment
I have already written a previous article about preparing a crisis response kit and this is something I always have in every control room. The contents will be specific to your location,event or client but you can read about my basic set up here .
In addition to this its always a good idea to keep the fire safety basics of a good quality dry powder extinguisher and fire blanket. These cover most eventualities and the obvious balance between size and mobility storage has to be taken into consideration. Again, a fixed site should have no issue getting a full size 9kg/6kg unit installed but if I’m mobile then a portable 2kg is possibly the maximum. Don’t rely on whatever venue or client you are arriving at to have one in place already.
The final piece of safety equipment is your medical or first aid kit. Again the bigger the better but the balance between necessity and storage has to be struck. For events some will say that there will be medics on site but Murphy’s Law will always strike and something will happen before they arrive, after they leave or when they are dealing with something. It’s not like nobody has ever cut a hand on an overnight shift at an event and there wont be a medic on site for hours.
Documentation and Folders
I mentioned in the first article that where control rooms are fixed and where they are part of a chain I prefer documentation and branding to be consistent. This includes things like folders being the same with branded spines. Same with notice boards and other accessories. Where the control room set up is temporary this can still be aspired to but can be difficult to achieve. Still having all of the correct documentation that you will need for the event, location, project is essential. Having it accessible is equally as important and having it easy to use is the most essential part. When it comes to the SOP folder I like to have all of the detailed SOP’s for the job but I also convert them to flow chart styles for ease of use and ease of reference. This list of documents in the standards checklist is the basics so I wont go into too much more detail here.
When it comes to control room technology there is loads of great systems out there. From great guard management tools to business analytic software it is all available at a price. Unfortunately that price sometimes exceed what makes sense for a small company. Leveraging technology is important though. A tool I’ve spoke about before is iAuditor. I’ve used it for numerous events and setting up small control rooms. It lets you update checklists and updates live for the senior team on their devices. It also allows the event management plan and SOP’s to be updated in real-time and keeps everybody up to date.
These last two articles have been my take on control rooms and their functions and layout. It’s just my way though and there are many more effective tools out there that I havent talked about. The important things for anybody setting up a control point are professionalism, consistency and being adequately resourced to do job required.