July 1, 2016

Donald PalmerSelf-professed AV/IT nerd, Donald Palmer wins the award for the longest job title: A/V Management Analyst for the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, Facilities and Security Office, Space and Facilities. In other words, he manages and supports audiovisual courtroom technology across the 92 U.S. Court Districts courts. He is based in Washington, D.C.

"I am responsible for fulfilling the requirements of courtroom AV systems throughout the federal judiciary," he clarifies. The Department of Technology Services formulates the policy of what AV systems should look like, and it is handed to the Space and Facilities Division, which has the contract to execute. "I get involved with projects at all stages," says Palmer. "I work with courts on their specific projects and requirements and make sure that they understand what they’re going to get. I’m using our contract vehicles and interface between the General Services Administration and integrator when they’re working on a project."

After seven years working with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Georgia, Palmer relocated to Washington, D.C., in 2005. The move allowed him to become more involved with AVIXA (which is based in Fairfax, Virginia). As part of a task force writing guidelines for court AV/IT, he became interested in the application of standards and that led to his involvement in the 2012 InfoComm 100 and participation on the AVIXA Standards Steering Committee.

Palmer sees standards as a means to improve the quality of work in his specific area of courtroom technology, as well as to assure that contracted installation firms have a full understanding and experience of the demands and complexity of this field. He recently helped draft language to make it mandatory for integrators who work on court AV systems to be CTS®-certified and that projects adhere to AVIXA standards.

"For 20-plus years we've had contractors doing this work, but this is the first time we’ve said you have to have 10 years of AV work for courts. And your team installation lead must be CTS-certified," he says.

The Federal Judiciary has two contract vehicles, one for AV design services and one for installation services. The AV installation contract allows fully developed requirements to be competed to eight firms, and Palmer being the contracting officer representative sees how successful the projects are with each of the eight integrators.

"We basically awarded firms off of the set of requirements. That's where the stricter requirements came in," says Palmer. "It was important that firms understand the technical complexity of a courtroom. Courtroom AV systems have weird idiosyncrasies that are similar in a way to hospital ORs, and very different to boardrooms and other more standard AV installations."

While sometimes a court’s existing AV equipment simply needs replacing, normally an AV overhaul comes as a result of a court requesting upgrades such as new carpeting or lighting — and audiovisual is added into the mix. The thinking is, if a courtroom is being taken out of service to do these facility upgrades, they might as well update the AV systems. It's Palmer's job to make sure that everyone is on the same page regarding expectations and execution, and that involves adherence to certain standards, such as AVIXA's Cable Labeling for Audiovisual Systems and Audiovisual Systems Performance Verification.

"If these firms follow the contract requirements, we should expect to have much more successful projects," he says. "We have to be upfront with standards. The AV integrator has to adhere to the standards: Here’s our guidance to where we're utilizing the standards to fit the judiciary and you have to have utilized the standard."

Being in charge comes with its own set of demands and challenges, but the feeling of a great resolution makes it all worthwhile, says Palmer.

"What makes this job really awesome is when a court is confronted with challenges with an AV installation and I'm able to assist the court and find answers to their challenges. Every project has its own character and individual needs, and within all that, there is an opportunity for a successful AV project. It’s a fun job!"

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