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Manage utility infrastructure like your life depends on it

February 23, 2021

Recent snowstorms managed to cripple the second largest state in the continental United States. Overnight, millions were left without electricity, clean water, and food because the aging infrastructure and electrical grid weren’t built to withstand a storm of that magnitude. Unfortunately, with extreme weather conditions becoming increasingly common around the world, being proactive about how to respond to such disasters in the future could save time, money, resources, and most importantly, lives.

Mandatory overhauls of utilities

Utility overhauls aren’t just a “nice-to-have,” they’re going to become mandatory under President Biden’s Build Back Better plan, which has recently called for a significant initiative to refurbish and upgrade the country’s crumbling infrastructure. This push could cost billions of dollars, but ignoring the problem could be even more costly. The Biden administration has staffed key infrastructure positions in the decision-making chain in the Department of Transportation, the Department of Labor, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Commerce, and the Department of Energy. This staffing signals that major pieces of legislation will take priority in the coming months and years, and trickle down to local and state governments.

Utility companies from coast to coast have grappled with a significant surge in demand that they weren’t built to deliver. The demand for natural resources like gas, water, and wind power has strained the infrastructure that delivers those resources to homes and businesses, so when a natural disaster like a hurricane or snowstorm hits, the already stressed system can’t sustain the hit. There are simply too many people that need water, electricity, and natural gas, and those resources are being delivered through systems that are old, outdated, and ill-equipped to meet the increasing demand. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) has compiled regular “report cards” on the state of U.S. infrastructure since the 1980s. In its 2017 report, the ASCE found that the nation’s infrastructure averaged a “D+,” meaning that conditions were “mostly below standard,” exhibiting “significant deterioration,” with a “strong risk of failure.”

Utility companies must be proactive about their disaster response before it becomes a government mandate. How are they going to get there? With technology that equips the mobile workforce to get their jobs done effectively, and in a timely manner. Fulcrum digitizes mobile inspection checklists (for sewers, for example), ensuring that no piece of equipment or machinery is faulty during use, the collection of data related to utility asset management allowing for quick and actionable decisions, as well as keeping the workers on the job safe and accounted for with location-based information.

When a wildfire hit Fresno County, California, the office of public works used Fulcrum to create a damage assessment application in less than 24 hours after the area was devastated. Due to the nature of this disaster, officials needed to find a solution that could be deployed instantly or shortly after the fire to assist with damage assessment and accurately collect data to share with FEMA so the recovery process could begin. It took the team about 24 hours to start leveraging Fulcrum from the moment they first heard of it. They soon had dozens of volunteers using the platform to complete damage assessments on roads, hazardous materials, and individual structures.

That same proactive response, coupled with Fulcrum’s nearly instantaneous location-based data, can help utility companies identify which structures need immediate attention, refurbishment, and repair. The roads, trains, nuclear power, water, and electricity that we all rely on to live all need constant management and inspection. Failing to do so is literally the difference between life and death.

Utility companies, government agencies, and construction companies that streamline their inspection process using mobile data collection applications will be the ones to thrive in a time of uncertainty. If you’re interested in learning more about how location-based asset and inspection management works, start your free trial.