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Console upgrades ease strain for Metro 911 workers

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Overdue improvements at the Metro 911 communications center aim to make life a little easier for dispatchers.

Older consoles that were installed in the Ned Chilton 911 Center off Corridor G when it opened in 2005 hold dispatchers' computer monitors, radios and telephones. They could be raised or lowered by hydraulic lifts to allow dispatchers to either sit or stand while they worked.

But over the years, the consoles had fallen into disrepair.

Dispatchers work in 12-hour shifts at the communications center but the consoles are used 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, said Capt. Mike Fannin, a dispatcher at Metro.

"This was something that was needed and will definitely make our jobs a little easier," Fannin said.

He said sitting for hours on end takes a toll on dispatchers and that they often stand up for a period while taking emergency calls. Standing up also allows dispatchers to make eye contact with other dispatchers across the room if they need assistance.

With the hydraulic lifts working, dispatchers can use the controls on the side of the console to raise it to nearly four feet high, said John Rutherford, Metro 911's interim director and Kanawha Sheriff-elect.

He said he stepped into the dispatch center one evening when dispatchers were handling incoming calls concerning a large fire and directing first responders at the scene. Police and paramedics accompanied firefighters at the blaze.

The dispatchers, he said, were standing so that they could make eye contact and communicate with each other to coordinate the response. But they also had to bend to type in information.

"They need to be able to raise those consoles up," Rutherford said. "They provide for a more efficient and coordinated response and they save seconds, which can save lives."

Workers were at the call center Tuesday repairing the hydraulic systems in 17 consoles, a move he said was funded by the Kanawha County Commission and the Metro 911 Executive Board. Rutherford said the repairs cost about $60,000.

He said workers also were replacing carpet and computer cabling in the consoles.

The consoles hold dispatchers' tools. Shaped like a half moon, they are split into two parts, a smaller forward section and a larger section behind it. The smaller section is for the dispatcher's phone and radio, while the larger rear section holds four monitors stacked two by two.

"It's the first step of every call when someone's in trouble," Rutherford said. "It's central that we have a good operation out here."

Rutherford said shortly after he was tapped to serve as interim director in August he spoke to the dispatchers about how to improve the communications center. He said the consoles were the first thing mentioned.  

Workers hoped to finish the work by the end of the week.

Contact writer Ashley B. Craig at or 304-348-4850.



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