DuPage County Work Environment

Observation Report

Version 1.2 April 5th, 2007 

1.0 Document Overview

This report provides an account of the observations and interviews conducted during the visit to DuPage County's Sheriff's Office. The purpose is to gather diverse insights from various facilities and develop personas and archetypes of dispatch centers based on additional observations.

2.0 Objectives of User Studies

The primary aim of these observations is to comprehend the operations of different dispatch centers. By identifying areas of value for potential customers, the development and product management teams can make informed decisions. These studies aim to examine behavioral patterns, usage trends, innovation opportunities, and system design gaps. It's important to note that these studies serve as a source of insights and ideas, but not the sole provider.

3.0 Methodology of User Studies

This study primarily adopts an ethnographic and contextual inquiry approach, involving firsthand observation of end users in their natural work environment. The study encompasses the spatial setup, technological infrastructure, and work processes of the dispatch center. This method offers valuable insights into users' daily routines, coping strategies, artifacts, interactions, task sequences, equipment usage, challenges faced, decision-making processes, and organizational methods.

Field observation includes interviews with users to gain an understanding of their roles and the ways they utilize the product. It also involves observing users' typical use of the product in their day-to-day activities.

This comprehensive method enables the collection of user needs. Key aspects considered include routines, coping strategies, artifacts, user interactions, task sequences, systems and equipment used, unmet needs, decision-making facilitators, and organizational methods.

4.0 Dispatch Center Overview

The Dupage County Sheriff's Office dispatch center is a smaller facility located within the county's office complex. The observation took place on April 5th, 2007, with participation from Motorola and Microsoft teams. The center comprises approximately eight consoles, with a minimum of four people per shift, except on Mondays and Fridays when there are six people present. The center receives around 40,000 to 50,000 calls per month, with call volume increasing during inclement weather and full moon conditions.

4.1 Space Details

The room features consoles positioned on either side, with a central aisle housing file storage units. The wall partitions between the consoles are approximately 3 ½ feet tall. Each workstation is equipped with 5-6 monitors, and there is a flat screen monitor displaying news in between the workstations. Task light lamps are provided on each table, while the overall ambient light is moderate.

The supervisor's office is a private room with a glass window, but it is not involved in dispatch functions. Therefore, one of the workstations functions as the supervisor workstation based on login, without any additional equipment.

4.2 User Details

Users at the dispatch center have fixed shifts and roles assigned to them daily, reducing the number of absences due to illness or other reasons. The different positions at this center include radio position, cell phone call-taking position, other call-taking position, and supervisor position. Although all positions can dispatch, calls are distributed based on the channel of the call. There is no strict demarcation between call taker, dispatcher, and supervisor roles.

The supervisor console offers additional capabilities compared to dispatchers, such as obtaining reports from the phone system, monitoring calls, and listening in on any call from the station. The following needs were identified: the supervisor console should be the same as the dispatchers' with additional reporting capabilities, and users should be able to have multiple roles within one login.

4.2.1 User Interaction


Users frequently engage in conversations across workstations to communicate the status of calls. In situations where multiple individuals are working on the same call, they need to update each other on the call's progress. Currently, there is no centralized view displaying the status of all users involved in an incident. For example, during an observed call involving a missing boy, one position communicated with units and parents, while others called hospitals to check for updates and relay the information.


Users require a single view that consolidates the status and notes of all users involved in an incident, facilitating effective collaboration.

4.2.2 Ergonomic Issues


Each position is equipped with 5-6 monitors arranged around the user. The distance between the monitors and the operators' eyes is approximately 2 feet or more.

Foot pedals are used to answer calls and communicate through the system. To operate the foot pedals, operators need to move their seats back, causing inconvenience.

Confusion arises from multiple keyboards, number pads, and mice used to operate the system. Users frequently struggle to determine which device should be used for a particular system. Different mouse configurations per workstation lead to frequent user confusion regarding mouse-to-monitor correspondence. Users have considerable flexibility in resizing and moving windows according to their preference, with the supervisor encouraging a comfortable working environment.


An integrated solution is required for the interface, hardware, and software, streamlining user interaction.

Font sizes should be legible from a distance of 2 feet or more.

Design should accommodate users' customizations, such as window placement, size, text resizing, and stacking of windows.

Design should ensure that windows requiring attention are easily brought to the forefront, preventing important items from being buried.

4.3 System Details

Systems used at each workstation include:

4.3.1 PMDC Details


PMDC is used to communicate with mobile officers and is typically displayed on the last monitor, overlaying the "All units" status monitor. The PMDC window is usually moved to the side of the monitor and expanded to full screen only when sending a message to a unit. Dispatchers primarily use PMDC for quick message broadcasting, email and fax bulletin board systems, and direct communication with officers in units.

Issue: Currently, there is no method to send photo details from officers to all the units and the dispatch center. Dispatchers must manually call all hospitals and send photos.


Ability to resize and minimize the PMDC window.

Capability to create and use hyperlinks within the PMDC client, including links to internet sites.

4.3.2 Mapping Details


ATM is utilized for mapping purposes, although two printed maps with marked zones and nearby areas are also present for quick visual reference. The ATM map windows are usually not opened unless location information needs to be obtained. Maps are primarily used for address and location lookup, tracking units, and determining the closest unit to a specific location. However, larger maps facilitate decision-making in certain situations.

ATM crashed a few times during the demonstration.

4.3.3 Query Details


Users rely on the state's query system to search for information related to vehicles or subjects. The query form opens in a separate window from PCAD (Dispatch) and remains open throughout the query process. Users need to log in each time and access the results on a separate, view-only system. Different types of messages, such as notifications, hot hits, and responses, are received on the query receiver system, but not all workstations receive all types of messages.

When query responses arrive, it is challenging to distinguish hot hits from other messages, as they all appear the same in the list. After viewing a response, the system sends a notification back (if marked) to indicate that the response has been viewed. Some messages received in the response receiver system are general notifications that need to be viewed by the recipient. The supervisor needs to track whether important messages have been viewed.


Improved integration between the state query system and response receiver.

Clear visual indication of hot hits in the message list.

5.0 Other Artifacts and Peripherals

Each workstation is equipped with: