Arlington, Texas Parks and Recreation
When the skies darken and storms roll in, local government organizations are quickly reminded of the power of Mother Nature. A tornado can wipe out neighborhoods in seconds; a hurricane can devastate an entire city; swollen rivers can flood and destroy homes. While it is impossible to prevent natural disasters, there are ways to prepare for severe weather and the recovery that follows.
This is the story of how the Arlington, Texas Parks and Recreation Department uses strategic planning and Cartegraph’s mobile technology to mitigate the impact of weather-related events.
On October 2, 2014, Arlington was hit with one of the worst storms it had seen in decades. Packing 90 mph winds, the destructive storm downed trees, ripped roofs off buildings, and left thousands without power. Then in May of 2015, the city was hit again—this time with heavy rain and flooding.
Because these storms were so big, the City of Arlington responded with an all-hands approach. Everyone pitched in to help with cleanup and recovery efforts.
“All the city departments spent man hours and volunteered equipment for cleanup,” explains Scott DeGrant, Asset System Administrator for Arlington Parks and Recreation. “And this wasn’t a quick job. We were dealing with the aftermath of each of these weather events for several months.”
Fortunately, DeGrant and his team had implemented Cartegraph in early 2014. Even though the storms created a significant mess, the software equipped cleanup crews with the tools they needed to get organized and be productive.
“We sent iPads out with the crews who were clearing the debris and removing trees. They used Cartegraph mobile app to find tasks and mark them as complete, transmitting information to us in real-time,” says DeGrant. “Supervisors and managers could easily see what was done and what wasn’t, which is really helpful during times of crisis when communication is a challenge.”
Cartegraph also provided the basic infrastructure to track man-hours, equipment usage, and costs. For example, DeGrant created a work order for the May flood cleanup to keep track of time and money spent on flood-related tasks. In the end, Parks and Recreation spent $27,000 in labor hours and $23,000 in other expenses on flood response. That’s $50,000 the department was forced to reallocate.
“Before this, we had no official way to track our hours or dollars spent per event,” says DeGrant. “We had to estimate how many hours people worked. Being able to track these expenditures, we are better positioned to improve our budgeting process, archive data, and pull reference material for similar weather-related events in the future. These are answers that our city council and tax payers deserve.”
Thanks to Cartegraph, DeGrant and his team knew that they had invested 2,432 labor hours, $27,144 in equipment, $10,000 in supplies, and $140,000 in tree removal across the two weather events. “We’ve never been able to understand the price tag of storms like these,” says Scott Fairman, Park Operations Manager.
With that newfound knowledge and data, the City of Arlington is realizing results in a variety of ways:
More precise budgeting. At the end of each fiscal year, the City of Arlington goes through a budget review process. In past years, the city had a loose approximation of its weather-related costs, but couldn’t apportion funds between unexpected tasks and routine maintenance. DeGrant now has a clear explanation for why most of his team’s tree removal budget became exhausted in the months after the storm—information that guides budget decisions for the city moving forward.
Mobile work management. With cross-device access, team members can see tasks and workflow histories in real-time. Field professionals use the Cartegraph mobile app to see what work needs to be done, mark tasks as complete, and check for other work nearby. This eliminates the need to call in or drive back to the office to find out what to do next—saving time and increasing productivity.
Real-time data. As crews complete work in the field, the information updates simultaneously in the office. At any given moment, supervisors can see what work had been completed—and exactly how much time and money has been spent. With that information at their fingertips, they’re able to more effectively plan their days and deliver results.
Time saved. Mobile work management and real-time data synchronization have translated into more efficient weather-related response protocols. “We’re starting to nail down how much time we’re doing routine tasks so that we can better prepare ourselves for the unexpected,” says Fairman. “We can access what we need without needing to call up our supervisors—a capability that’s especially important when we’re facing an unforeseen natural disaster.”
Improved planning. The next time Arlington is hit with severe weather, the team can reference the historical data as part of its response plan. The city will be able to more accurately predict labor hours, material needs, and equipment usage—making for a more efficient and effective cleanup process.