COVID-19 business continuity - utilities, water and telecom

June 2, 2020 Josh Triantafilou

Deploy, manage, and communicate the impact of COVID-19 with new business continuity tools. This blog will show available resources for utility, water and telecom companies. Learn how to quickly set up solutions with readily available downloadable templates. Be prepared and enable your organization to manage and respond to COVID-19 impacts.

Note: The below is a transcription of the Esri webinar ‘COVID-19 Business Continuity for Utilities, Water, and Telecom’.

This article is the first in a series of three. You can find the other articles here:

Overview

Business Continuity can be defined as the ability to continue operating your business following an unforeseen event. It can be further broken down into the following areas:

Utilities have well established and documented procedures in place to deal with disasters. We can define a successful disaster response plan as one that enables you to scale normal operating procedures to respond to a significant event. This involves technology, processes and people. 

However, what happens when you are faced with a disruption that challenges ‘business as usual’, such as COVID-19? Further, what happens when you are faced with simultaneous events, such as flooding or ice storms occurring during the pandemic? To answer these questions, it is useful to distinguish COVID-19 from the “usual” natural disasters that utilities typically prepare for. 

Natural Disaster COVID-19
Defined event and area Global event, with undefined attribution
establish central response command centre Coordinate remote workforce
forecast potential impacted network Network changes due to shifting loads
Typically focused on customer and network Primary concern is managing employees and facilities

The following are essential considerations for an effective COVID-19 response:

  • Do you know where your employees are working and if they are safe?
  • Do you know what facilities are open or impacted and where they are?
  • Are you able to communicate the status of employees and facilities with Human Resources and senior leadership?
  • Does the public know which of your offices or facilities are still open, and which are impacted or closed?

Lack of continuity planning can result in a cascade of failures as employers attempt to address challenges of COVID-19 with insufficient resources. Disconnected spreadsheet-based workflows are not ideal in this situation. 

To help organizations maintain business continuity, Esri has released several configurable maps for utilities, water and telecom. These free downloadable templates for ArcGIS users can be used to maintain business operations and share authoritative information both internally and externally as required.

The Esri COVID-19 GIS Hub is a publicly available webpage where organizations and the GIS community can navigate to and get maps, datasets, applications and more for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). These resources are updated with new information as it becomes available. It helps organizations and communities understand, prepare for and learn how to respond to COVID-19 using GIS. For example, the embedded John Hopkins dashboard has become the global standard for monitoring the spread of COVID-19.

The hub also provides a step by step process to help organizations understand the potential impact of COVID-19 on your organization and community. We have applications and dashboards that have been available to the global GIS community and even publicly available datasets, which your organizations can take advantage of to create and curate your own customized applications. 

Esri has also curated various resources for use by your organization. These include:

  • The Hospital Impact Model for ArcGIS Pro (v1.1.2)
  • Community Tools
  • Tools for business continuity

Let’s take a deeper dive into the last item to better understand how your organization can leverage this tool.

ArcGIS Coronavirus Business Continuity Solution

  • Find the solution here

This is a page where we can get a high-level overview of what the solution provides to your organization, what the system requirements are, which components from the ArcGIS platform, and any updates that are constantly made available to the solution.
 

Once you’re on the page, click on the ‘Get Started’ tab to get an overview and a step by step process of how you can deploy this solution via the ArcGIS solutions deployment tool.

Now, we’ll look at how your organization can leverage the specific components of the solution.

Personnel Status

  • Below is a Survey123 survey that can be made available to everyone in an organization to allow them to check their work status and safety as well as health status
  • The survey enables you to understand where staff are working and the conditions in which they’re working
  • A key feature of this solution is the ability to track who individuals may be working with, which is critical for facilitating social distancing among staff

From a managerial standpoint, we can even check-in entire teams. 

 

Ultimately, these surveys are going to power personnel status dashboard that gives managers and upper-level staff insight into who’s working, where they’re working, and are they safe. For example, you can compare key metrics, such as absences, against historical data to identify potential impacts of the pandemic. You can even see who has symptoms or is living in a household with others who have symptoms. 


Facility Status

A critical component of the Business Continuity Solution is the Facility Status Reporter application, which is a web application that allows you to track and maintain the status of facilities. Let’s look at an example.

Here, we navigate to this east Chicago pump station and see that it’s impacted: it’s supposed to operate as a 24-hour facility, however, the staff member responsible for this station is absent. 

With this information, we can link out to a facility status report survey in Survey123 to submit a report and update the status of the facility accordingly. 

Once submitted, the status will be reflected across the ArcGIS platform, including your dashboards.

In the dashboard, you can view have many facilities you have, how many staff you have and other key metrics. You can also view the history of the reports that are submitted as well as the location. In the example below, we can see that the pump station’s status has been now been closed. You can also do this with billing departments and share that information with the public.

Summary

Business Continuity Solutions consist of a number of apps that enable you to:

Report and monitor

  • Status of your facilities
  • Capacity of your workforce
  • Health of your employees (optional)

Understand and act

  • Current status of your workforce and facilities

Communicate

  • current operations and/or disruptions to customers and stakeholders

How to deploy the Business Continuity Solution within your organization

First, specify your ArcGIS organization.

Next, click ‘Deploy an ArcGIS solution’. This allows you to search through all of Esri’s available solutions. Run the Coronavirus Business Continuity solution (which is applicable for all industries). This deploy button uploads all the solution items straight to your ArcGIS content folder in just a matter of minutes. Direct access to the content folder confirms that all these were successfully uploaded.

Third, configure the data schema of these two key parent features called personnel and facilities. You may alter the schema, but do not delete existing fields as they are dependent for the maps and apps. 

Lastly, go ahead and load your data. The personnel table determines who can submit a survey and fill in the fields; for example, construction leads, compliance directors, and engineers. Similarly, in the facilities layer, load any critical facilities and fill in the fields. For utilities, these could include regional offices, service centres or even ongoing construction sites.

Once the data has been loaded, you’re almost done. Aside from uploading features, the tasks also automatically create a Business Continuity group with all the solution content within Your ArcGIS Online organization page.

The group will contain everything you need to get through that last stretch of your journey. A convenient feature about this solution is that there is no need to create new web maps because they will automatically be created for you.

For example, this facility status reporter web map already includes those parent facility features, standard symbology and a clean pop up design.

At this point, you’ve completed the solution-set up. You can now invite end-users to share your success.

You can do extra configuration on the webpage to make it easy for personnel to access as well. In the below example, we see apps for:

  • Individual check-in
  • Team manager check-in
  • Facility check-in
  • Manager dashboards

Summary

The Esri ArcGIS COVID-19 Business Continuity Solution allows you to quickly deploy and enable you to:

Rapidly build a website that provides authoritative information to customers

  • Maps showing office, depots, or facility closures or impacts
  • Assurances and other information about continuity and ongoing efforts to remain operational

Share critical resources for business continuity with internal stakeholders

  • Internal dashboards and information depending on user role
  • Internal apps and surveys for gathering critical information on workforce and facility status

About the Author

Josh Triantafilou

Josh Triantafilou is a marketing specialist with Esri Canada. He makes it easy for people to find and evaluate products and services relevant to them. Josh is interested in the power of GIS to make sense of the world and affect meaningful, positive change within it.

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