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The Sunday Read: Blackouts Used to Prevent Wildfires

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Wildfires continue to be an issue. Electric Utilities are facing the problem in innovative ways, trying to minimize costly damage, customer outages, and avoiding becoming the next PG&E. The latest idea is something that’s been used before but some want to see it implemented on a larger scale – Blackouts are being used to mitigate fire risk.

Being proactive means thinking outside of the box and while the jury is still out on whether or not a blackout can actually be a successful tool in stopping the spread of a wildfire, everything and anything must be considered.

While burying lines is a story that continues to be talked about in wildfire mitigation circles too, being able to respond quickly is equally as important. Check out ARCOS Incident Manager for more on how an ICS structure can called up and facilitated in minutes instead of an hour, two hours or more.

What are more ways that utilities can prevent, manage and mitigate wildfires?

3 Rituals for the Morning Shuffle

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The morning shuffle (or whatever time of day you start) can be rough for most people, even early birds. We’re often tired, unfocused, and disorganized. ARCOS has a few tips to help keep things in line, tamed and less stressful. 

1.    Keep It Mobile

After your good night’s sleep, rise and shine ready to take on the day ahead full of energy, extreme vigor and renewed focus! Okay, well at least get the coffee going and take a shower as your blurry eyes focus on what’s next. And how? Reach out for your mobile device. As you crunch into the cornflakes or brandish that bran muffin, you can quickly check for any surprises that happened overnight. Keep it to only checking messages and the weather. Too much information overload as you just get up can change your attitude and derail your day. Just know that ARCOS has your back and is ready to spring into action. In a crisis situation, you can use our mobile app but otherwise wait until you hit the office to fire up the best resource management tools available.  

2.    Discover if you are In or Out 

So you parked the truck and head into your workspace. All the lights are on but are they on everywhere? Check to see if there have been any outages overnight. Were crews dispatched by  Callout and Crew Manager to take care of any emergencies? Do you have an emergency now or is that just the caffeine kicking in and making you a bit paranoid? Assess your current situation and breathe. You got this with ARCOS’ help.

3. I know you’re out there 

After discovering if outages have played a number on your carefully laid out daily operation plans, it’s time to see if everyone is there. Has there been a call-off? Was there a sudden need for somebody to take PTO? Did an event cause members of your team to go on rest period? ARCOS  Crew Manager can help provide full situational awareness in milliseconds. If needed, you can rearrange assignments and put together new work teams on the fly. Callout can send the word out that you need support and in less time than it takes brew another pot of coffee, your crews will be assembled. In one of ARCOS’ latest callouts, it only took 20 minutes and 10 seconds to make 4,105 calls. 707 shifts were filled. If you need more outside help for a bigger job or development, use Resource Assist to bring contractors into the fold.  

These rituals will help make your morning shuffle more manageable. No one will ever see you sweat. Work can be something you look forward to when you have an ARCOS solution and the right tools in place. Crew manager, Callout and even Resource Assist are the wake-up call you need so you can have a better noon, afternoon and night. Schedule a demo of the whole ARCOS suite including Incident Manager. Learn more at https://www.arcos-inc.com/solutions/.

The Sunday Read: California Wildfire Legislation Gives Utilities $21 Billion, Requires Annual Safety Certification

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California legislation is requiring all utilities in the state to have an annual utility safety certification process completed before they can access $21 billion of funds set aside to compensate victims of wildfires caused by power lines and pay for other wildfire related liabilities.

While some are saying the legislation doesn’t have enough safeguards in place and gives utilities a free checking account, others are pointing out that the safety verification process is needed to prevent lines from sparking the issues wildfire victims and PG&E have experienced and that since the mandated certification will be tied to executive pay, oversight is built into the bill.

Whichever side of the fence you are on, something has to be done so bankruptcy and tragedy can be avoided.

ARCOS can help by getting regulated procedures implemented in short order. Every IOU in the state of California and several municipal utilities are currently using ARCOS – and many other organizations are looking for ARCOS to aid, augment and bolster their current wildfire mitigation plans. We can speed up response, better manage resources before/during/after events, and timestamp and report every step taken during a crisis management situation. Our software can even put pre-inspection checks and work orders in place to make sure utilities are being pro-active in checking equipment before anything happens. Utilities, talk to ARCOS today and get ahead of the new legislation now.

Linemen Are First Responders

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Support for the physical and psychological tole of disaster relief has been in the news a lot lately with the recent extension of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund until 2090. (https://www.cnn.com/2019/06/12/politics/first-responder-victims-compensation-fund-passes/index.html) The public was up in arms regarding Congressmembers’ perceived lack of interest in the testimony of gravely ill first responders affected by 9/11.

While nobody doubts the courage, sacrifice, and service exhibited by traditional first responders such as police officers, firemen, and EMS crews, there is a well-deserved push to recognize utility line workers as first responders in order to ensure they are given the same sort of support.

In the weeks after Hurricanes Harvey and Irma caused extensive damage across the US in 2017, UWUA President Mike Langford stated:

 “Now it’s time for our elected leaders to recognize us as first responders as well. When disaster strikes, we are on the scene doing those things that make it possible for other first responders, including police and fire personnel, to do their jobs. We are responsible for making disaster sites safe places to work so that others can do what needs to get done. Yet, we do not enjoy the same legal status as other first responders.” (https://uwua.net/magazine/we-are-first-responders/)

Utility Workers and PTSD

In the years since 9/11, multiple studies have been conducted examining the long-term emotional and psychological effects of the disaster, not just on first responders, but other disaster response workers such as utility workers. In one such study (https://giosan.com/publications/wtcptsdpredictors.pdf), it was determined that out of 2,960 utility workers studied, 8% tested as having “full” PTSD and an addition 9.3% had “subthreshold” PTSD.

Although 9/11 stands out as an anomaly in terms of scale of destruction and loss of life, it serves as an indicator for the true impact natural and man-made disasters have on linemen. Not only are they enduring difficult conditions such as extreme weather, poor sleep, and high stress, but often they witness traumatic scenes including towns wiped away, families in shock, and worst of all, injury and death.

How to Support Linemen

It’s important to do what we can to support our linemen before, during, and after disasters to ensure both their physical and mental wellbeing is being looked after. It’s encouraged that all utility companies have a policy in place for dealing with their workers during disasters and ensuring there is a safety net beneath them.

ARCOS is committed to the health and safety of lineman and utility workers everywhere. Our solutions such as Callout and Crew Manager, as well as safety check functionality,  were a direct response to answering the industry’s need to respond, restore and report during crisis situations. We’re proud to support the work they do, often putting their lives on the line day in and out.  https://www.arcos-inc.com/solutions/

For more information on how you can support our linemen, click on these additional resources:

National Institutes of Health’s Coping with Disasters: Health Information Guide (https://disasterinfo.nlm.nih.gov/coping), in specific, its section on help for response workers (https://disasterinfo.nlm.nih.gov/coping#For_Emergency_Responders,_Healthcare_Workers,_Journalists,_and_Volunteers)

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Disaster Distress Helpline (https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/disaster-distress-helpline)

US Department of Veteran’s Affairs National Center for PTSD’s section on Disaster Rescue and Response Workers (https://www.ptsd.va.gov/professional/treat/type/disaster_response_work.asp)

Center for Disease Control’s Traumatic Incident Stress: Information for Emergency Response Workers (https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2002-107/pdfs/2002-107.pdf)

 

The Sunday Read: Utility stocks are a reliable, old friend

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Utility stocks have been bashed and thought to be something of the past. A few mislead investors were even starting to call out life support for what has traditionally been a strong and solid portfolio purchase.

According to this story from Investorplace.com,  happy times are here again.

Being a large part of the business we serve, these facts and figures are not news to us. Utilities are America’s life blood and even with a hiccup every now and then, they haven’t lost any definition or financial tone.

While we can’t predict the market, we can forecast that our friends will stay robust and be a stout choice for years to come. What is your view of utility stocks? Do you have any in your portfolio? What can utilities do to keep being a sound investment?

 

The Sunday Read: Going Underground

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The case has been made for ages. Shouldn’t we just bury electric lines?

Even with what happened to PG&E, it’s not as simple or clear cut as it may seem as this article from CNN points out.

Accessibility, geography, price and ultimately who foots the bill all play big roles in the future of electric logistics and where something will go and when. Are consumers ready to pay higher rates for the thousands of miles of lines that would need to go underground? ARCOS can mange the crews but is it economically feasible for utilities?

All are great questions to think about this Sunday.

 

 

The Sunday Read: Can AI change our thoughts?

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Like it or not, AI is coming and it may be better at solving our problems than us.

TechnologyReview.com is featuring an article outlining 10 ways that it could fight climate change but right out the gate, it really reads as a manifesto on how it can change the electric utility industry. Welcome to the future now.

The idea raises many questions. If AI is doing all our thinking, can it be regulated? What safeguards will be put in place if it happens to grows dim and fails? Can we make more efficiencies manually and by our own processes to eliminate a dependency on artificial means? ARCOS automates but we don’t lose what’s important- our human component. And of course, who programs the thing? We don’t need garbage in, garbage out.

Tomorrow is always brighter than today, let’s just hope we have a nice pair of sunglasses ready to go so we can see it.

 

 

 

For Every Action…Be Less Reactionary with Full Situational Awareness

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Does this Sound Familiar?

Project X suddenly needs five extra crew members.

Outage Y popped up overnight and is bursting with multiple crew and contractor needs.

Project Z starts next week, and you need a crew to begin but everyone is taking PTO.

If you’re still doing this the old-fashioned way – spreadsheets, whiteboards, or even pen and paper – then you’re in for a rough way to go.

Update your work routine with ARCOS.

In an ARCOS-run environment, Project X would already be in your Crew Manager dashboard. All you would need is to search for the skill set of the crew member you need and drop them in the roster. That’s it. A simple click allows you to build, rearrange, and add or subtract to crews. And ARCOS’ mobile app enables crews to see what they’re assigned from their mobile app.

Outage Y is a more urgent scenario but ARCOS has tools for that, too. During an emergency or anytime, Callout and Crew Manager’s automation methods put crews in action fast. Our companion solution, ARCOS Resource Assist, finds the qualified contractors you work with and put them into play just as quickly. A key advantage of Resource Assist integrated with Crew Manager is you can manage contractors and employees all in one system and can go back in history and see who was working on what. This all leads to customers who will sing your praises when your response and restoration time is much shorter than estimates thanks to crews being out of the garage and on the scene.

And as for Project Z which is due to start, cue up Crew Manager and Resource Assist again to make sure the crews, contractors, and equipment become dispatched as needed, without endless phone calls, reply all e-mails, and complicated paper chases. Crew Manager even works well in construction type projects when accounting for vacations, PTO or medical leave for the day-to-day contractors deployed. You have full situational awareness and manage everything in one place.

With the ARCOS proactive, organized approach to scheduling, you can breeze through any scenario and take on any crew request without sweating the details you might overlook. Find out more by clicking here to talk to one of our experts today.

The Sunday Read: The Private Water Landscape is Changing

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In preparation for #AWWA19, ARCOS takes a look at how diversified infrastructure providers are converging utilities all under one banner and causing a shift in competition. This article from WaterOnline.com reports on a new study that outlines the growing trend and how municipalities and system owners are being forced to weigh the benefits of outsourcing against owning and operating a portfolio of aging assets.

Is this the way to address water’s aging infrastructure? Will repairs and replacements be completed faster and without consumer impact if this model of acquisition continues?  The Sunday Read ponders these questions and more…

A Day In the Life – Daily Operations Over Easy

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Here we go.

After a great weekend, you walk into the office grasping your warm cup of morning necessity. The weather is fantastic and today is already off to an awesome start. For a change, it’s a day of regular operations and you don’t have to worry because you have ARCOS.

ARCOS Crew Manager has helped assemble your teams for standard maintenance, infrastructure inspections, planned work and items on that “to-do” list that never seem to end. Your morning shuffle is automated to save you hours of time that would’ve been spent trying to figure out who’s in, who’s out, who can work with who and then publishing this information to the team.

Uh-oh – but what’s this? Steve just called in sick and Pete forgot that he has to leave early for his daughter’s soccer game. Usually, this could cause a dark cloud to enter your blue sky, yet ARCOS saves the day again and with a few clicks and Callout, the shifts are a memory – and you never had to look at a spreadsheet, whiteboard or remember any  union rules. You even had time for another cup of coffee. With ARCOS, full situational awareness is at your fingertips allowing you to plan work or quickly adapt to unplanned circumstances.You can even move a team that is somewhat close to a job if another crew finds itself without enough manpower.

As the day progresses, ARCOS generates a real-time record of who worked where and on what. For the documentation inspections require, this is an essential benefit. Now you have what you need to complete requests from regulators.

If all this sounds too good to be true, you’re probably not using the right kind of resource management software. The streamlined ARCOS approach leads to fewer errors and greater efficiency. The conclusion of daily work arrives faster so teams and crews can move on to their next immediate task and can even squeeze out an additional hour of wrench time.

How can ARCOS help you with daily operations? Request a demo tailored to your individualized day-to-day situation and find out how. You’ve never had more time to take care of work than when you are working with ARCOS. Manage people, not paper.

And don’t miss our Daily Operations Webinar Thursday, June 20, where you’ll learn how to duplicate this blog’s work flow by automating the morning shuffle and scheduling to gain more work hours in your day. Find out more and register here.