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Creating a Safe Campus in the Time of COVID-19

Around the world, the COVID-19 pandemic caught most organizations off guard as it suddenly upended work culture. For facility managers at colleges and universities working towards a safe return to campus this coming fall, there will be a shift in focus from crisis response to planning. How can location intelligence and indoor GIS support the health and safety of your campus?

After almost a year away, most university students and faculty around the country are expected to start trickling back to campus in the next few months. It is an understatement to say that back-to-school will be a little different this year. For facility and operations managers, this means a lot of procedures and protocols must be adapted to comply with the latest guidelines from Public Health and Centre for Disease Control. So what does this entail and how can GIS help?

Indoor spaces we now know pose a greater risk of spreading COVID-19 than the outdoors. For campuses, the priority is to create a safe communal learning environment that students, faculty and staff feel comfortable returning to. This includes honoring social distancing requirements by following directional signage, reducing indoor capacity and regularly sanitizing frequently touched areas. Fortunately, the ArcGIS system and ArcGIS Indoors, Esri’s indoor mapping and location tracking software, is uniquely suited to help with all this.

Below is a list of three things campus facility managers should think about as they start planning for a safe return to campus.

  1. Plan for social distancing

    Social distancing, also called “physical distancing,” means keeping a safe space between yourself and other people who are not from your household. Even if campuses offer a hybrid model where some students, faculty and staff go to campus sometimes and stay home the rest of the time, they still need to visualize how they can efficiently and safely use campus facilities. Indoors allows users to aggregate, visualize, and analyze indoor spatial data on 2D and 3D maps, apps, and dashboards. For example, operations managers can employ Space Planner, a browser-based app, to better understand student seating arrangements. They can see where social distancing conflicts, such as seats that are too close to each other, and reorganize or block off spaces to ensure compliance with safety regulations. Space Planner also allows analysts to model various social distancing parameters so they can visualize areas of concern and map out safe seating arrangements.

    classroom floor plan with seats that are 6 feet apart

  2. Plan for reducing and directing traffic
    Ensuring that occupants are 6 feet away at all times can mean reducing indoor capacity by as much as 80 per cent. This will require directional signage so there is less chance of occupants coming in close contact with each other as they move from one room or building to another. Indoors allows facility managers to publish space plan changes in real-time via its native mobile app and web-based viewer. Having up-to-date indoor maps of classrooms, libraries and other spaces makes it easier for students, faculty and staff to interact confidently with their new space arrangements. They can use the mobile app and viewer to reserve study rooms and navigate to classes, amenities and other points of interest.
    floor plan with directional signage directing a user from point A to point B
  3. Plan for enhanced cleaning protocols
    Campuses should provide and maintain sanitation stations and ensure that high traffic and frequently touched areas are regularly disinfected by maintenance staff. Anyone on campus can use Indoors to report facility issues, such as areas that need cleaning. In the mobile app or viewer, all they need to do is mark the space on a map, upload a photo (this is optional) and submit a ticket. Once the ticket is submitted, cleaning staff receive a notification telling them exactly what and where the problem is, and they can then use Indoors to navigate directly to the area of concern.
    cleaning and sanitizing on campus

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that having a sophisticated digital campus operations system in place makes it easier to enhance facility services and respond to unexpected events and disasters. By using ArcGIS to re-envision indoor spaces and make adjustments to how campus facilities are managed, students, staff and faculty will be more aware of their surroundings. This provides a much clearer common operating picture to those who manage facilities and operations.

Visit the ArcGIS Indoors page to learn more.

Do you have questions? Contact Jean Dion to get your answers.

On Tuesday, March 23, at 12 pm EST we will be hosting a live webinar What's New in ArcGIS Indoors. Join us to learn about the latest release and new indoor mapping and space planning capabilities.

This post was translated to French and can be viewed here.