If your 911 center digs are anything like ours, it is probably “governmental,” which is a widely accepted description for “dull,” “boring,” “institutional,” “gray,” and overall … “blah.” While these words are fitting for the description of a jail where things are not supposed to be cheery, our centers NEED to be sprayed with more goodwill messages and color-infused visuals. In the midst of dealing with people in crisis, we need visual reminders that there is good … there is color … and there is joy in what we do and who we are.
Give your creatives “license”
You know the creatives in your center. They love posting anything NOT in black and white. When it comes to designing your center, remember to balance professional “stuffy” and professional “fun.” Inject life and color tastefully without being dressed up like a kindergarten classroom.
Creatives simply need a canvas—a place with unlimited possibility yet a limited scope. Bulletin boards work well for this purpose. In our center, there is a “What’s cooking?” blackboard space where folks can post favorite recipes. Another larger designated wall space serves as the holiday wall used to celebrate themes of the different holidays and seasons. They typically include feedback visuals from staff; for instance, for Thanksgiving there was a big tom turkey display and his “feathers” included individual dispatchers’ responses as to what they were thankful for.
Many centers have an area or bulletin board dedicated to the “attaboy/girl,” which are outstanding items to share with staff. They contribute awareness and motivation to staff—always a good thing!
Do you have bare wall space? There are several inspirational wall posters and framed artwork options depicting 911 themes that are inexpensive yet tasteful and timeless. A quick Google search will lead you to hundreds of options. A long, dull hallway? Consider a mural. If painting a mural is beyond any of your creatives’ capabilities, you may look to a local high school or college. They often look for outside projects for their students, and the price is often right (low or no cost). A mural is like giving the center a tattoo. It’s going to be there for a long time, so think about the design before rushing into the project, making sure it will represent your center appropriately.
Whatever decor you choose should be representative of the mission, vision, and values of your department and of 911 in general. Decor should include diversity, respect, and pride in the workplace. Images of violence or anything of a sexual nature have no place in the center. Humor is good, but it must be tempered. Despite our occasional dark humor in the dispatch world, it should not be displayed in any manner, as it could easily be misinterpreted as insensitive or in bad taste.
Color pulls in the positive
Since our creatives started putting up colorful displays, staff has commented about how great it is to see the center “come alive.” It’s tough not to smile when we see the fun displays, the bulletin board themes, and even the delightful, positive decor that is carefully taped on individual dispatcher lockers when they get signed off on a position.
We all know that attitude is everything.
Our disposition, if gloomy, results in mismanaged calls, confusion, and poor customer service. Conversely, if our disposition is sunny, we are more likely to take pride in our work, manage calls appropriately, and provide great customer service. As Allen Klein wrote:
“Your attitude is like a box of crayons that color your world. Constantly color your picture gray, and your picture will always be bleak. Try adding some bright colors to the picture by including humor, and your picture begins to lighten up.”
If adding a little color therapy to our world will have a positive effect, then I say bring on the crayons!