If you work in the utility sector, your offices have remained open, even in the face of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic. Businesses and individuals alike cannot afford to lose access to the electricity, water, wastewater disposal and other vital commodities provided by their local utilities. One of the keys to keeping on serving your utility members during difficult and demanding times is to ensure staff members stay as safe and healthy as possible.

Using technology to limit in-person contact

Keeping down the risk of COVID infection means adopting new approaches to everyday workplace policies. When state and local health departments call for social distancing, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that companies keep their employees from meeting face to face. Any communications that can be handled remotely should switch to a digital model. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) advice follows the same pattern – keep your employees out of direct physical contact with customers and one another whenever possible, reducing and staggering shifts and allowing people to work from home.

Technology can serve you well when it comes to coordinating your team’s operations in the face of a pandemic. You don’t need to have a large crew of employees in the office when the few who remain on duty are able to communicate effectively with one another and with field crews. Sharing information through an outage management system (OMS) allows each person to view the same detailed data, no matter where they’re located.

Mobile access to the OMS takes this concept to a new level. Now, workers don’t even have to be near a computer to receive geographic information about the potential source of an outage. That data can be integrated with mapping software to leave no doubt about where a team should go. Other functions, such as communicating with customers, can potentially be handled by staff working from home.

When an outage strikes, the whole team must pull together to coordinate accurate information and formulate a response. When they have a modern OMS on their side, these staff members never have to meet face to face to get the plan underway.

Setting up your utility for the future

One of the points in favor of using a modern OMS while following social-distancing guidelines is that the system will remain a valuable part of your organization’s technology stack even when employees are once again cleared to meet in person. The ability to share consistent information immediately between office personnel, field teams and employees working from home is always a valuable part of outage response.

If your utility crews are relying on outdated technology to deal with outages – for instance, if your team needs to relay information to linemen via radio rather than sending data to a mobile device – you may be slowing down power-restoration efforts and weakening the customer experience. A tech-enabled approach to outage recovery is a safety-first innovation during the pandemic, and it will continue to pay off in the years ahead.

View DataVoice customer success stories to see how utilities of all sizes and descriptions have made use of these solutions.

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