Author: Phillip Graves, Customer Success Manager

As a customer success manager, I help our clients use HeadLight Solutions to work more efficiently and effectively and ultimately to achieve their goals. I work closely with the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (LADOTD) to help ensure their HeadLight users get the very most out of our technology—whether for their ongoing infrastructure projects—or for the more urgent challenge of disaster preparation and response.

Louisiana has one of the highest rates of hurricanes in the country. As such, it has been important to LADOTD to continually improve their storm preparation and response procedures. This has meant transitioning from traditional paper-based processes to cloud-based visual inspection technology: They first used HeadLight’s Fieldbook app for storm recovery following 2020’s devastating hurricane season to help make roads safer for both responders and residents. Since that time, they have continued to use Fieldbook to enhance communication and documentation across their construction and inspection teams.

Storm Preparation and Recovery with Fieldbook

When a natural disaster happens, responders themselves have to immediately take care of their homes and families. Once their own safety and the safety of their family is stable, they shift back into work-mode. But, when responding to a storm, they are less of an inspector and more of a first responder. Their work transforms beyond their typical scope of inspecting construction projects, bridges and roadways. In the event of a hurricane or other storm, they conduct contraflow and traffic control, as well as investigate critical routes to make sure people are able to safely get in and out.

During this first phase of response, inspectors apply the mindset and strategic planning abilities they would normally use to deliver a project and switch to a more tactical approach. The thought process is more focused on questions like: “Are these structures and roadways safe and usable? Where is the debris and what are the risks to the traveling public? How can we set up locations for buses to transport anyone who’s unable or can’t afford to evacuate?”

When it comes to leveraging technology following a storm, teams can use Fieldbook to visually document debris such as downed power and utility lines. These observations note the specific location and can include tags and other helpful information. This both allows the DOTD and their partners to begin the process of recovery and allows them to efficiently answer questions such as: “What is the severity of this disaster from a district and regional standpoint?”

Following a disaster such as a hurricane, smaller municipalities start to game plan and tap their people to document the scope of the disaster and gauge if roads and bridges are passable and if properties are accessible. Individuals, businesses, and the local and state organizations need to know all sorts of information to be able to take action and plan their recovery.

The need for specific, organized data is ongoing but is particularly pronounced during storm recovery. Fieldbook captures these details and provides a thorough overview of the situation as a whole; in turn, it allows users, stakeholders, and partners to easily view the metadata and the notes that were made by the inspectors themselves when they were present.

Fieldbook can also provide municipal leaders with insight into how much of the impacted area is accessible to citizens and residents. In this use case, decision makers are using Fieldbook just as any inspector or office worker on a typical project would: they are looking through the feed of observations and reading notes to understand the state of roads and bridges. In this way, leaders can use up-to-the-minute information to help inform their guidance to their own teams and to the general public.

The power of visual-based inspection technology in comparison to traditional processes

LADOTD’s motivating factors behind investing in visual-based inspection technology were to be more efficient and consistent in their infrastructure projects across the state. They wanted to make sure their process was the same each and every time. Having this level of data-driven insight, clarity, and consistency has enabled them to develop new processes, leverage searchable reports, and have a more thorough “level of awareness as to exactly what happened, where, and when.

Traditional processes rely heavily on using exact words or specific terminology typically used by inspectors. By contrast, Fieldbook goes beyond specific words to provide an enhanced level of consistency. By relying on images and meta-data such as time, location, and tags, as well as other types of observations like weather, Fieldbook is a more inclusive and flexible framework for capturing data. For example, in Fieldbook, users label photos as they take them through dynamic tagging that is consistent across LADOTD’s implementation of Fieldbook. This means the verbiage (and therefore the data, reports, etc) will make sense to teams, partners, and stakeholders across the state rather than applying to only a defined area.

For example if a user wanted to note a “downed power line” inside Fieldbook, users would not need to worry about potentially using an inaccurate term such as “temporarily down.” All users viewing the image and accompanying information in context will know specifically what is being captured.

Additionally, the observations with Fieldbook are easily searchable by anyone at any time — whether a P.E. in a local unit or a P.E. in a partner city. The governor can even chime in, read the reports, and have visibility into who is able to read those reports while understanding exactly what is going on with the given situation.

This capability is one of the biggest differences: Traditional processes rely heavily on specific verbiage and word of the mouth from one person to another. Software allows users—in a matter of moments—to see exactly what is happening, where. Decisions can be made quickly and everyone is on the same page, which is essential when dealing with a disaster. HeadLight’s construction and oversight solutions are designed to do just that: help teams deliver infrastructure projects on schedule, efficiently, and with reduced risk.

Learn more about how engineering firms and departments of transportation are leveraging technology to enhance disaster preparedness and response efforts by watching our disaster preparedness and recovery webinar on-demand now.