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The Lucens reactor's control room
NASA's "Shuttle" (White) Flight Control Room in Houston, Texas

A control room or operations room is a central space where a large physical facility or physically dispersed service can be monitored and controlled. It is often part of a larger command center.


A control room's purpose is production control, and serves as a central space where a large physical facility or physically dispersed service can be monitored and controlled. Central control rooms came into general use in factories during the 1920s.[1]

Control rooms for vital facilities are typically tightly secured and inaccessible to the general public. Multiple electronic displays and control panels are usually present, and there may also be a large wall-sized display area visible from all locations within the space. Some control rooms are themselves under continuous video surveillance and recording, for security and personnel accountability purposes. Many control rooms are occupied on a "24/7/365" basis, and may have multiple people on duty at all times (such as implementation of a "two-man rule"), to ensure continuous vigilance.

Other special-purpose control room spaces may be temporarily set up for special projects (such as an oceanographic exploration mission), and closed or dismantled once the project is concluded.


Greifswald Nuclear Power Plant control room in 1990.

Control rooms are typically found in installations such as:

Special hazards and mitigation

See also: Area of refuge

Control rooms are usually equipped with elaborate fire suppression and security systems to safeguard their contents and occupants, and to ensure continued operation in emergencies. In hazardous environments, they may also be areas of refuge for personnel trapped on-site. They are typically crowded with equipment, mounted in multi-function rack mount cabinets to allow updating. The concentration of equipment often requires special electrical uninterruptible power supply (UPS) feeds and air conditioning.

Since the control equipment is intended to control other items in the surrounding facility, these often fire-resistance rated service rooms require many penetrations for cables. Due to routine equipment updates, these penetrations are subject to frequent changes, requiring maintenance programs to include vigilant firestop management for code compliance.

Due to the sensitive equipment in control room cabinets, it is useful to ensure the use of "T-rated" firestops that are massive and thick enough to resist heat transmission to the inside of the control room. It is also common to place control rooms under positive pressure ventilation to prevent smoke or toxic gases from entering. If used, gaseous fire suppressants must occupy the space that is to be protected for a minimum period of time to be sure a fire can be completely extinguished. Openings in such spaces must therefore be kept to a minimum to prevent the escape of the suppression gas.

A mobile control room is designated as particularly in high risk facilities, such as a nuclear power station or a petrochemical facility.[further explanation needed] It can provided a guaranteed life support for the anticipated safety control.


The design of a control room incorporates ergonomic and aesthetic features including optimum traffic flow, acoustics, illumination, and health and safety of the workers.[2] Ergonomic considerations determine the placement of humans and equipment to ensure that operators can easily move into, out of, and around the control room, and can interact with each other without any hindrances during emergency situations; and to keep noise and other distractions to a minimum.

In popular culture

Control room scenes dealing with crisis situations appear frequently in thriller novels and action films. In addition, a few documentaries have been filmed with scenes in real-life control room settings.

Image gallery

See also


  1. ^ Bennett, S. (1993). A History of Control Engineering 1930-1955. London: Peter Peregrinus Ltd. On behalf of the Institution of Electrical Engineers. ISBN 0-86341-280-7.
  2. ^ Design, Control Room. "Control Room Design". Control Room Design - HSE. Retrieved 12 January 2016.