An Unexpected Safety Lesson From COVID-19

Posted to Esri in the Digital Utility Group
image credit: ID 40722867 © Phasinphoto |
Pat  Hohl's picture
Director - Electric Industry Solutions Esri

Pat Hohl, PE, is Esri's director of electric industry solutions. He was a pioneer in the use of GIS for electric utilities. He has over 35 years of experience in utility engineering, technology...

  • Member since 2018
  • 133 items added with 182,325 views
  • Jun 15, 2020

Everyone wants to return to normal from coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Many wonder - What is okay at the current recovery stage?

A group discussion about recovery took a turn for the worse. I asked - “Does anyone know what stage of recovery we are actually in today?” No one was confident in this simple yet essential information. Information feeding public health procedures was contradictory. It was not current or clear-cut.

Utility safety, like COVID-19 recovery, rests on clear concise communication. Many accidents result from communication mistakes. Customers get dropped unintentionally by switching errors. Line workers are injured when they contact energized equipment.

Misidentified equipment and out-of-date maps are two causes that sadly reappear again and again These are avoidable. Employees need current information to remain safe.

When it comes to safety, you do not take someone else’s word for it. You check for yourself. You verify switching and blocking instructions with your own maps and resolve any discrepancies. I heard this everyday over the utility radio. Field staff and dispatchers cross checked each other and adjusted for any oversights. They all need the very latest network maps.

For most of my career I maintained one of the special circuit map sets – so I had the newest updates. These rode in my car in dedicated boxes right next to my hardhat and boots. I kept them up to date, just like the sets in the trouble trucks. However, even in the very best case scenario, these yellowed papers were a full month behind. 

This is the information age. Within arm’s reach, we have a device that puts all human knowledge in our hand. The real-time state of the electric system can be communicated immediately and securely to everyone that needs to know.

Mobile apps put current maps in the field. Similarly, they also bring immediate updates back from the field. ArcGIS location technology shows field employees details of the equipment right where they stand. They can even see real-time data like equipment loads and temperature (example).

Clear communication is vital in everything we do. For COVID-19 and utility work, current information steers proper procedures and safety.

What if the map update time was reduced to zero with mobile apps? Every user would have live information to make the best decisions for safety and service.

To find out how live location-based information helps help utilities operate safely, visit our safety industry page.

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