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‘Tis the season…for assessing Emergency and Incident Command Software  

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Temperatures are beginning to plummet across the nation, causing us to zip up our coats and grab a warm hat and gloves. There is no doubt about it; the season of ice and snow is here.   

History has shown that the Northeast, Midwest, and even the South have been hit with outages that can last for days – and that doesn’t necessarily come from a blizzard’s blanketing of an area’s landscape. Ice can be an even bigger culprit as it leaves its frozen footprint before melting away into a considerable amount of trouble for a utility and its customers. 

Downed power lines and water main breaks can affect thousands of customers and make a cold and dire situation even more difficult for health compromised consumers. A moment’s lapse in services isn’t an option. And with COVID-19 still hanging around until a vaccine is in place, crew safety and contact tracing are paramount. 

Is your plan to attack winter weather developed? Now’s the time to assess and reassess the measures an organization has in place before the season gets ahead of us – and it all begins with emergency and incident command software. 

The power of an Incident Command System 

Organizing a response before something happens is in everyone’s best interestsHeightened emotions and knee-jerk reactions should not be the forces used for making the decisions during an emergency winter event. ARCOS Incident Manager can help you develop a well-thought-out, agile, and pivoting restoration plan in step with available resources and personnel. 

 Incident Manager allows you to activate your emergency response plan or use FEMA’s Incident Command Structure (ICS). It automates an organization’s emergency hierarchy activation and calls up teams without the delays manual activation can take. There’s no searching for binders or spending hours looking for the right spreadsheet – it’s all done ahead of time and instigated with one click of a mouse. It saves precious time so crews can be sent out immediately to get customers back on-line to life-sustaining services like water, heat, and electricity. 

 ARCOS Incident Manager is one step of an organized and level-headed solution to assist business, operations, and incident response. ARCOS Callout and Crew Manager are an additional constructive tier of incident resource management, allowing crews to be assigned and dispatched at a moment’s notice. Crew Manager can also help keep crews safe through the creation of a pod work structure. This makes COVID-19 contact tracing a reality while never letting a slowdown occur in restoration activity. 

 Unfreezing your Incident Command Software potential 

 Winter weather shouldn’t freeze you or operations in its tracks. Planning and having solutions in place for any turn a storm may take is necessary and beneficial not only for customer restoration times but also for crew safety. Find out more about the whole ARCOS suite and how it’s helped many utilities mitigate the results of whatever Mother Nature has decided to dish out. Warm-up your response and contact us here. 

A Tool to Efficiently Manage Your Team’s Workload 

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At times, it can feel like the work never stops. Incoming emails requesting work are stuffing your inbox, field teams are finding out tasks require even more tasks to be assigned to complete work orders, and an outage just caused your already scheduled day to unravel as you hastily move things around 

 Who exactly is on rest? Who took PTO? No wonder your hair is a mess, and you just took a drink of the four-hour old coffee still on your desk from a previously well-thought-out morning. 

 Seem familiar? We’ve all been there. 

 Workload management can become overwhelming in an instant without the proper tools at one’s disposal. Workforce and workload management software have taken us from the dark ages of whiteboards and spreadsheets to a world made of efficient work and workload distribution, allocation, and full visibility. The right workload management software will balance jobs with crews who have the perfect skillsets for the work, speeds up completion times, keeps teams organized and happy, and gives more hours back to your day. 

Sound too good to be true? 

Intelligent Workload Management 

Workload management’s goal is to boost efficiency in assigning current work while having a clear view and process in place to handle additional work as it arrives. It matches skillsets to tasks, with complete knowledge of who is available to work, when, and the teams closest to the trouble. An intelligent workload management tool like ARCOS Mobile Workbench can do all that thinking for you. It’s even tied together to other legacy systems an organization uses, so it creates one centralized source of truth and place to turn to sort and prioritize work, workloads, and the workforce who will complete the work tickets. 

A workload management tool should also empower employees and managers by providing visibility of resource allocation. ARCOS Mobile Workbench does just that, and since it records every action for reports and planning purposes, you have the peace of mind of total recall. When you can eliminate worry and stress, employees and crew teams become more confident, effective, and ultimately more productive. 

Workload Management is Essential 

Although it’s a fantastic concept, we don’t have 27 hours in a day; however, if you want to gain back some of the 24 you do have, automated workload management software can get you there. It’s almost like buying a watch that runs backward. Well, not exactly, but is an essential step in  

  • Cutting down the time it takes to research and make work and work assignment decisions. 
  • Seeing the whole picture of resources available so you can pivot in an instant. 
  • Sending tasks and tickets based on employee capabilities or capacity, which increases the speed of completion times. 
  • Foreseeing problems through the historical reporting of teams’ repetition, work patterns, and the time it takes to get jobs completed. 

Leveraging a workload management tool builds a critical foundation offering full visibility and advanced resource allocation for any organization. And it’s not too good to be true. It’s here now. If you would like to find out more, contact ARCOS at the linkhere. We would be glad to help you increase efficiency and productivity through effective workforce and workload management. 

Become a Workforce Management Hero like Joe

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Managers have a tough job.  While dealing with things like adhering to lean budgets, creating and supervising schedules, attempting to boost productivity and making sure work gets completed, no one expects them to be flawless.  However, some solutions can help make their job easier. Let’s talk about “Average Joe”, the schedule manager.

Average Joe spends about 3.14 hours or more per week creating the work schedule.  Not to mention the hours he spends on updating, processing time-off requests, managing overtime work, and filling slots to no-shows or sick workers.  This is where the real time is lost.  Average Joe is shown to lose almost 20% of his time on a week to week basis just to keep shifts filled and minimum staffing levels maintained.  The real tragedy about Average Joe is that with all the time spent on the schedule, he has much less time to manage his other responsibilities.  He knows that scheduling is often overlooked and taken for granted, with little to no recognition unless he messes it up. He knows he could be capitalizing on managing priorities and safety, if he could only stop expending so much time and energy on the weekly schedule.  With this on his mind, he begins to research how he can make scheduling more efficient and realizes that shift management automation is a solution that is used by a multitude of critical infrastructure organizations across the country.

With a workforce management automation solution,  Average Joe has his scheduling responsibilities basically done for him.  It can create a fair and balanced work schedule based on his bargaining agreements, process time off requests, allow workers to bid on open shifts independent of his supervision, and automatically fill last minute open slots with just a couple of clicks – no more countless emails and phone calls.  Now Average Joe isn’t so average anymore.  With all the time he saves he begins to dedicate it to other priorities, and soon enough he’s getting recognized for his efficient operations.

What is true for Average Joe is true for many managers today.  Time is money and losing it on manual shift management is like throwing money out the window.  Using automation to create schedules for your workers, all while allowing them to have autonomy in shift bidding and trading, overtime, and time-off just to name a few, can save you hours of your time weekly.  A robust shift and workforce management solution can turn these precious hours wasted into additional productivity – freeing managers to maximize their efficiency and impact the organization’s bottom line.  With the ARCOS Platform, all these things and much more are possible. Take a page out of Average Joe’s book and do some research and see what ARCOS shift management solutions can do for you and your company.

5 Ways Technology Impacts Change Management & Retention

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These days when it comes to the Critical Infrastructure sectors, the only constant we can rely on is change. Because of this constant evolution and push to do more with less, many companies are starting to feel the pressure that comes about with all this change. Whether it’s the generational expectations in our workforce as Boomers retire, Generation Xer’s aging in the workforce, or the new influx of Millennials and Zoomers, your business needs to be able to effectively communicate and work with all of the groupsEach generation has different motivations and priorities – below are a few ideas on how you can use technology to bridge generational gaps and create trust within your organization for retention. 

  1. Empower your employees with tech – new generations come with new technologies. With the proliferation of the smart phone, your company has new avenues to meet your employees where they are and empower them to better performance. Whether this is tech to get your work orders straight to their mobile device to avoid driving to the service center, or an app that helps them do a shift bid or PTO request right from their phone. You can utilize tech to make your employees lives easier – all while impacting your bottom line. 
  2. Attract New Workers – This point goes hand and hand with strategy number one. When you need to attract an influx of new skilled workers into your critical infrastructure company, put technology in place to attract them. Millennials and their younger counterparts love any new pieces of tech they can get their hands on and master– especially if it means they don’t have to pick up a phone and call someone. Why not give them what they want with an app that would let them trade shifts or accept overtime hours with the click of a button?
  3. Audit your changes – When we talk to critical infrastructure companies, one of the biggest complaints is their challenges with disorganization, disparate systems that don’t share information, and lack of accountability when there is a discrepancy. Don’t want these headaches? Use your data! By utilizing software that will harness the power of automation, you can establish a rich, deep reporting repertoire that will record any and all actions taken, work completed and shifts managed in one place.
  4. Start at the top and involve every layer – As progress transforms your industry, be sure you are communicating with every level of your business to find out just what their needs are. One of the biggest steps you can take as a business toward successful change management is to be selfaware of what your employees need to be successful at ALL levels of business, from your C suite on down.
  5. Build Partnerships – The fact of the matter is that change comes quickly and never stops, and we must be prepared for that. Reaching out as a company to see what resources and tools are out there should be paramount. You can’t know what tech there is to give your workers if you’re not looking. 

That’s where ARCOS can come in. We have over 25 years’ experience helping companies in the critical infrastructure sectors keep up with today’s fast paced world of technology to retain and attract your workforce – and we can help you with this whirlwind of change. Today we challenge you to work smarter and not harder 

Reduce Time Tracking Errors and Reporting Woes

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When it comes to the things that motivate your employees, the payroll portion tends to be the most sensitive. When there are manual errors in time tracking, timesheets and even historical reporting – that means there could be errors in your employee paychecks. If you have a unionized business, this can cost you thousands in grievances while human resources has to dig through historical timesheets, often manually researching each grievanceIf you’re using manual paper timesheets, excel spreadsheet, or some other antiquated manual system is the norm for your operation, it may be time to take a deeper look at your reporting and how you can work more efficiently. 

Automation is out there, and it’s been proven to have a positive impact on your critical infrastructure peers. Realtime data allows for full visibility of all of your companies’ assets from vehicles to equipment, personnel to tools. 

By utilizing this near instantaneous sharing of information and automation of manual processesyou can:  

  • Ensure business rules, union contracts, and company policies are followed without error in a consistent and fair approach  
  • Cut administration costs and enable employee self-service; greatly improve employee morale, which can reduce turnover 
  • Dramatically reduce errors in payroll associated with overtime and shift swapping 
  • Free up managers and supervisors so they can focus on leading their employees, not handling administrative tasks 
  • Helps create a better relationship between company and union, as there are accurate reports always 
  • Reduce dead-time for the employees that are driving to meet a crew at a workplace and waiting for other workers or equipment to arrive 

And once you have all the real-time and historical data – you can make more informed information about your staffing and shift management. This will allow you to make informed decisions about where your staff needs to be and when, how many need to be there to finish the work that is assigned, and how to save money in other aspects of the business. By having historical reporting, you also have all employee interactions with the system recorded, which can help in a situation where a timecard is being questioned in an “our word against yours” situation with a vendor, auditor, or employee. 

The bottom line here is that there is progress to be made and ways for your operations to run more smoothly and more efficiently. Partners like ARCOS, who have over 25 years of experience in the critical infrastructure space can help you realize your dreams of more efficient operations. With the ARCOS platform, all that was mentioned above will be like second nature and your shift management woes will be a thing of the past.  

Tips & Tricks to Help Manage Your Staff’s Workload Distribution 

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Delegating work can become an overwhelming problem. Workloads are ballooning while only a finite workforce, narrow job completion time frames, and a restricted number of necessary equipment are available. Mix in the health and safety rules and regulations COVID-19 has added to the delegation process, and managers can lose productivity and focus fast. It’s a problem over-shadowing every industry – including utilities and critical infrastructure organizations. How can leaders effectively balance and manage the ever-increasing workload and keep the limited number of crews and teams healthy, less stressed, and ready to accomplish the multiple tasks at hand? 

Enter Workload Management 

Workload Management is the deliberate practice of efficiently distributing work throughout a team. It enables managers to match employees to work and jobs coming in, so performance and productivity levels are never compromised. It allows team members to deliver work of higher quality, to complete work tickets faster, and to be able to move on to the next project with precision and full visibility of all resources available. Workload Management is a strategic productivity enhancement to the skillset of a workforce. 

The following tips and tricks can help any company efficiently manage workload distribution, ensuring that more jobs are finished quickly without burnout or resource management complications. 

Pre-Planning and Planning Again 

Efficiency isn’t random or a magical thing that mystically happens. It’s the product delivered from a mindful application of pre-planning and planning efforts. To accomplish anything, an organization must have a strong workforce and workload management plan first with the foresight that it is malleable and able to change as situations warrant. A project can only be victorious based on the latest facts, schedules, and resource allocations. Effective work distribution cannot happen any other way. Plans must include an achievable goal, a list of team players available to work including their skillsets and strengths, and the tools available that match the work that needs accomplishing. Running through scenarios and reviewing past jobs is essential in pre-making plans, so you already have something in place to face whatever the world wants to throw at you. Make sure you schedule time to strategize, so delegating is already decided and can be put into motion at a moment’s notice. Then, be ready to pivot. Nothing stays the same forever. Always be planning, and you will stay three steps ahead. 

Know the Analytics in order to Prioritize 

If bad data is coming in, you’ll only have bad data going out. Garbage in, garbage out, right? One of the most critical aspects of workload management is to be sure you are getting the most up-to-date and reliable information possible. You cannot set you and your team up for success unless your analytics are top-notch and accurate, including field reporting, team rosters, itineraries, crew schedules, work and job tickets, equipment inventories, and in this day of on-going pandemics, PTO and quarantine contact tracing lists. Each of these analytics can help prioritize the workload and reveal the exact team members you need. “When” is never a question as the analytics will show arrival and estimated completion times and alert you of any bandwidth issues before they happen. Prioritizing workloads and managing tasks can be done when all the numbers fall into place before you in one centralized system.   

Use a Workforce and Workload Management Solution 

So, our last tip had a lot of moving parts. How can a manager keep track of that many data points while being crushed by a continuous torrent of work orders rushing in? Get started with a workload management solution like ARCOS Mobile Workbench. ARCOS Mobile Workbench acts as one central source of truth. It’s able to give you a complete view of what’s going on with every job, work ticket, and crew team member and can tie into your existing OMS, WMS, and other business systems – precisely what you should look for in a workforce and workload management solutionYou also need a system that can record, track, and retain historical data. ARCOS Mobile Workbench does that too, making reviewing, planning, and reporting as easy as a few clicks of a mouse. Saving time, avoiding conflicts, and having the agility to move fast on projects is essential. When you don’t have to use multiple apps, reach for a spreadsheet, or decipher a whiteboard, you can react quickly. A workforce and workload management tool gives you that proficiency with full visibility, and an added layer of team confidence that brings crews, their work, and their resources all together in a singular system.  

Balance Your Approach 

Workload distribution and workforce management tools have come a long way. Creating a better process using the latest technology can lead to better communication, collaboration, allocation, and real-time task insight. It can improve morale and get more out of teams on a work site. It can provide a holistic view of all resources available and a historical record which informs future work management planning and staging. It provides a balanced approach that puts every team member on the same solid ground as they tackle a never-ending pile of work. Find out more about how ARCOS solutions can help by checking out our recent Storm Cost Recovery & FEMA Reimbursement on-demand webinar. 

The Importance of New Technology for Municipal Utilities and Co-Ops

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It’s no surprise in the fast-paced world of storms, restoration, and unplanned work, that manual processes can slow you down. Sure, you might be used to using whiteboards or paper lists to record important data – but with ARCOS automated Resource Management Platformyou don’t have to. Think of the minutes, or even hours, you can get back along the way, all while standardizing processes and accurately capturing data around your workforce and their work.

Things like duplication of data entry, potential human errors, and paper processes don’t offer one source of truth for involved teamsleadership, and third partiesNot to mention the fact that your systems may not even be able to talk to one another, which takes more manual processes and time to get the job done and be report on it.

Embracing new technology and encouraging systems to talk to each other through a strong API can better help your utility: 

  • Improve schedule details 
  • Decide on common data semantics and improve business processes 
  • Optimize enterprise application interoperability 
  • Enhance benchmarking 
  • And improve efficiency by embracing one source of truth for data and reporting 

If that all sounds great, but you don’t know where to get started, then we have news for you. 

ARCOS is now supporting the MultiSpeak Initiative, a collaboration of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) to offer the MultiSpeak interface as a part of the ARCOS Resource Management Platform. This technology specification is used by municipal and co-operative utilities for standardizing the exchange of data between software systems that handle field work, outage management, and distribution operations. 

The new development will better help utility managers to easily take power outage data from an OMS, create a work order, and assign the work order to the closest available crew with ARCOS Mobile Workbench. 

So, what does this mean for smaller utility organizations or co-ops, and how does it all work 

If, for example, a storm damages hundreds of meters, web services available through MultiSpeak could carry XML formatted data from the utility’s OMS, then launch an automated callout for damage assessors using the ARCOS Damage Assessment solution. 

Once the damage assessors are in the field, they can use their mobile devices and GIS to send data back to the utility via data packets. From there, a callout for repair crews would be launched using the ARCOS Resource Management Platform. (Read more: ARCOS press release)

Check out the “ARCOS Supports Multispeak Tech Spec to Help Utility Munis, Coops” press release to learn more about the ARCOS Resource Management Platform and MultiSpeak, and what it means for your utility. To see how ARCOS Mobile Workbench and the ARCOS Resource Management Platform can help you better manage your workforce and their work while helping with accurate reportingaccess our virtual online meeting and demo on Improving Your Cost Recovery & FEMA Reimbursement Processes. 

Safety and Leak Management: Increasing your Emergency Response Time

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Whether it’s a long-term planned project, or an unplanned emergency in the middle of the night – safety is a commitment that is always evolvingThis year, safety took on a whole new meaning as the utility industry quickly made changes in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Beyond usual protocols, utility organizations also embraced workforce social distancing, created “pods” to lessen potential contamination, and embraced remote work opportunities to keep employees and customers healthy and protected.

We know safety is your priority, and manual processes that surround emergency callouts (like phone calls, spreadsheets, and whiteboards) can make it more difficult for individual responders, teams, and crews to get to the trouble quickly – especially when facing COVID-19 challenges. So, how does automating callouts and resource management fit into your safety plan?

Every Minute Matters
During a gas emergency, time is of the essence when finding the closest qualified responders. A slow response risks a potentially dangerous situation, and a consistent poor response time from an organization could attract regulator attention.

When the clock is ticking, automating callout processes can help gas organizations find qualified individuals or crews in a matter of minutes, while automatically applying union rules and company policies. After implementing ARCOS Callout and Scheduling Suite, Columbia Gas (a NiSource company) dispatchers were able to get a response almost immediately, saving an additional four to six minutes on callouts. 

The Goals of an Emergency Callout
Whether it is the middle of the night or halfway through the workday, unplanned emergencies are inevitable. When facing aevent, your organization is working hard to get the right people to gas leaks and odor calls quickly while following union rules and complying with Fatigue Management Policies for employee safety. 

Furthermore, when all of these moving parts are managed manually, there is always room for mistakes that could result in grievances, incorrect overtime payments, and a lack of quality data capture. Automating your resource management with one source of truth can save you time when it comes to both responding and reporting.

Documentation is Key
Accurate historical data capture can not only help your utility exceed your KPIsbut can also assist with your state mandated response time, and ultimately keeps your teams safe. When compiling information to report to the state and internallyyou’ll need reliable information such as:

  • Resources called 
  • Resources secured 
  • Proof of response 
  • Response timeline 
  • Internal performance benchmarking 
  • Overtime equalization 
  • Mitigation and elimination of grievances 

We know – it’s a lot of information to have on hand. Especially when manual processes are involved. But thankfully, it doesn’t have to be hard.

Filling callout requests quickly by using an automated Resource Management Platform can improve overall emergency service response with centralized lists, and give better visibility into employee working status, all while automatically adhering to company policies and union rules in a single electronic database application. ARCOS can help your organization manage your workforce, their work, and find the right people for the job without having to pick up a phone or consult cluttered whiteboards.

Want to learn more? Check out our case study on NiSource Gas Distribution or see how ARCOS helps Central Hudson Gas & Electric cut response time during an emergency callout. Safety is an everchanging habit, and is becoming increasingly more important as we move through these uncertain times. How will you choose to respond? 

Taking advantage of automated processes in Telecommunication

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Similar to many critical infrastructure organizations, telecommunications companies have had to adjust and change the way they manage operations, workload management and workforce optimization due to COVID-19.  

Welcome to the new normal. No one saw it coming, but now even simple tasks must be weighed with the risk of transmission and the goal to maximize efficiency of operations. 

Having the ability to speed up and automate daily operations priorities like absence management, workload management and social distancing requirements due to the current pandemic are major challenges, before you even start thinking about all the other “big stuff”. Accounting for all your workers, while incorporating sick days, vacation days, union rules and company regulations can give even the best schedulers headaches. Making sure you have the right workers in the right place, at the right time is the key to efficiency – and getting work done.  

When a cell tower needs repaired or you’re behind on rolling out 5G infrastructure, you’re under pressure to get a crew on site yesterday. Your crews and supervisors might be drowning in spreadsheets, emails and whiteboards in order to find out where they need to be and what equipment they need – talk about a tremendous loss in productivityIt would be great to have a solution that diminishes response time to unplanned events and acquires the right people for the right job automatically.  

An automated resource management platform IS that something.  With automation and real-time data for decision-making, emergency response time can be cut down to a minimum along with the stress of crew management and job status updates throughout the dayReource Management platform like ARCOS can help you acquire additional workforce according to your business rulespair them with work and equipment, and get them out the door – without any tedious phone calls or emails It can make mountains of work seem like small bumps in the road and allow workers and managers alike to focus on the big picture, rather than menial tasks. 

You are not alone in your struggles, and ARCOS has helped over 230 critical infrastructure companies manage their resources efficiently. This is just the tip of the iceberg, as we can help with your staff planning, shift management, and workload management – just to name a few. With our technology dispatch and crew management headaches become a thing of the past. Even in the new normal we can help you work smarter, not harder.  

How you could use federal funding for Resource Management

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Over the last few months, municipal utilities have faced challenges like they’ve never seen before. Every day you’re having to fill unplanned absences, get the right workers to the right job at the right time, and manage overtime hours – not to mention implement policies to reduce transmission and keep your workers safe. This leads to daily operations and work management being an extremely complex affair, with many manual, disparate processes that reduce efficiency 

Automating these manual processes and being able to fill absences due to illness or quarantine, deliver work to crews remotely, and manage crews in the field can save you a LOT of time and money during workload and workforce management. 

Sounds great, right? Now comes the hard part, finding the money to pay for it. How do you procure funding? Some of you may even be experiencing a budget shortfall due to the ramifications of the current COVID pandemic. The good news is that there are options. In 2020, to help deal with the fallout of the COVID pandemic, the federal government has created the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) to help many businesses (including municipal utilities) convert their operations to remote work where possible and to help communities respond safelySome public works organizations and municipal utilities are applying for funding through the CARES act for resource and work management systems like ARCOS. 

In CARES Act, the government explains that there are several conditions that will make your company eligible for funding from the government. Specifically, “Expenses of actions to facilitate with COVID-19 related public health measures such as; Expenses to improve telework capabilities for public employees to enable compliance with COVID-19 public health precautions.”  

ARCOS Resource Management fits nicely into those categories with the following features: 

Facilitating and Improving Telework Capabilities 

  • Mobile Work Ticket Delivery & Job Status 
  • Real-Time Availability of Resources 
  • Virtualizing Safety Briefings and Mass Communications 

Complying with COVID-19 Public Health Precautions 

  • Tracking & Monitoring PPE  
  • Crew Contact Tracing 
  • Alternative Crew Structures to Reduce Transmission 

If you are feeling the pinch from the pandemic and are looking for a way to help you keep your employees safe , the ARCOS platform can help – and you could even get help paying for it. To learn more about the CARES Act, please go to the following link: https://home.treasury.gov/policy-issues/cares