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Aspire Response to COVID-19 - An Update from Aspire President & CEO, John C. Harris

Making Safe Space Solutions Work in the Real World

Written by Carter Yepsen, Aspire IoT Practice Director

As states and cities move into new “phases” reopening during the pandemic, more of us find ourselves re-entering workplaces and schools – sometimes with concerning results. It is not for lack of planning – many organizations assembled “Reopening Committees” tasked for months with developing safe space solutions: policies, protocols, and procedures for safely reopening their workplaces, schools, and facilities. These teams are faced with implementing critical tools that will aid in preventing the virus spread and helping in the creation of a safe space for the workforce, learners, teachers, and visitors to the premises.

In many instances, the practical application of these policies, protocols, and procedures is where problems can occur; but it’s also where tremendous opportunity exists. In this article, I am going to discuss some of the ways that “adjunct technologies” can empower your organization to reopen confidently and safely.

Adjunct Technologies Support and Complement Established Policies and Protocols

First, let me explain what I mean by “adjunct technologies.” In this case, I am referring to safe space solutions you can use to assist your organization in supporting and carrying out the safety policies, protocols, and procedures that you have established. For example, you may have developed a specific policy – limiting the number of people who may enter a breakroom at any given time – or a protocol – taking peoples’ temperatures before allowing them to enter your building.

You can follow and enforce these policies and protocols through increased physical security – employing security and healthcare personnel to provide a watchful eye as people enter elevators and offices and to take temperatures. However, this is not a scalable method, and can also become burdensome as it requires safety personnel, often wearing PPE, to be in place constantly as your buildings or facilities re-open. You can also employ the honor system where you trust that everyone entering your offices is following all the guidelines, protocols, policies, and procedures you have outlined. Unfortunately, you need only read the news to see the impact the honor system has had as colleges across the country begin to re-open.

Creating A Safe Space for Your Workforce, Students, Faculty & Staff, and Visitors

You want all your employees, visitors, patients, and customers to feel comfortable and confident when coming on-site to your location – and that requires creating a safe space or environment that can scale with the number of people who are on site and any given time. What will something like that take?

Here is an example: Imagine that you are the principal of a mid-size high school serving 300 students in each grade 9 through 12. Your school district has developed a protocol that requires every student, teacher, substitute, administrative employee, and facilities worker to have their temperature tested prior to being admitted to the building or campus. If they meet the temperature guidelines and do not have any obvious flu-like conditions, they can spend the day within the safe space that you’ve established – washing their hands, wearing their face coverings, and keeping socially distant from one another. This requires trained staffers wearing layers of PPE and getting closer than six feet to scan body temperatures and keep track of people.

What might that look like on a regular basis as 1,200 students, 60 teachers and 50 support staffers get off buses, are dropped off by parents, drive themselves or walk from home and head into your building’s main entrance? Chaos is the word I am thinking, how about you?

Now let me offer a different take on the same scenario. Students, staff, and visitors stop at special kiosks at the front entrance that provide a thermal mirror where they scan their identifications and then scan their face and forehead to take their temperatures.

This is very similar to how we entered many buildings pre-Covid where we needed an ID badge or QR code to enter an area or take an elevator. With the addition of the thermal mirror technology, you can ensure that your on-site visitors quickly pass a temperature test in addition to showing proper identification.

Once inside the building, additional technologies may be deployed to ensure that your employees and building visitors remain safe and follow your safety guidelines. For example, you may want to preclude large numbers of people from using break rooms simultaneously. Using a WI-FI access point and software that can track room density by how many WI-FI devices (individual mobile phones) have entered a room can allow you to send a message to users to exit the room.

Safe Space Solutions Checklist

Many of our customers from the healthcare, education and business organizations who are re-opening have deployed similar solutions and find that these adjunct technologies complement their already established policies and protocols in a most effective way. Based on our experience, integrating safe space technologies that work well together – for instance, thermal mirrors from Creative Realities, Inc. (CRI) and Cisco Meraki APIs result to a more operative and cost-efficient use of such solutions.

As more organizations prepare to reopen in the coming months, Aspire is committed to enabling their come-back with proven and tested technology solutions and our expertise. Here is a simple checklist we have developed that you can use when considering deploying these types of technologies inside your organization.

  • Establish your policies, protocols, and procedures. Identify integrated solutions that will support your desired policies, not replace them. You may find that you need to modify your procedures, but not the desired outcomes. You are looking to ensure a safe work environment.
  • Know and understand your industry and contractual obligations. Make sure that the technology you deploy meets your community’s and industry’s regulations or guidelines while being mindful of any contractual obligations (e.g. union contracts) you may have. For example, healthcare organizations must follow HIPAA guidelines as well as any contracts regarding things like employee tracking.
  • Consider your appearance and organizational image. Consider how you want to appear to your employees, customers, students, or patients as they enter and work, study or recover at your location. Is the new safe space solution mindful of the image that you wish to project, or does it appear to be it a painful hinderance to getting things done?
  • Prepare and roll-out your communications. Like any new technology, physical building change or policy, you must communicate the intent of the new safe space solutions and provide positive reinforcement to your safety guidance. For example, if you notice policy violations such as lack of social distancing, perhaps you can provide a reminder through digital signage or individual messaging to people who travel through an area during a certain time of day, and you can communicate assurances that all personal data is confidential and secure.

These safe space solutions are meant to support your protocols and policies, not replace them. Meeting your business objectives and providing a safe environment for everyone in the facility is the critical objective.

In future articles, we will look at technologies to prescriptively address contact tracing when it can provide the biggest impact and not days and weeks after the fact. We will also look at advanced ways to display, analyze and interpret the safe space data you are collecting to help you improve your environment.

Contact us when you are ready to discuss how to build a safe space for your real-world environment.

Aspire Technology Partners is a Cisco Gold Certified Partner engrained in solution pillars that set us apart as a true Cisco solutions provider. We are committed to the continuous improvement of expertise and skillsets around Cisco initiatives that enable us to help and guide customers in the adoption and management of technology architectures designed to transform their organization. We hold Cisco Master Specializations in Collaboration, Security, Cloud & Managed Services and is one of only 25 partners in the US to receive the Cisco Advanced Customer Experience Specialization.

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