Tag Archive for: COVID-19

Q&A with the Locus Support Team

The biggest differentiator between Locus and other EHS software providers is our support team. Not only do we pride ourselves on the quickest and most efficient resolutions in the industry, but on our human approach to support. Get to know our support team as we recently sat down (virtually) with them to talk about the ins and outs of their field, how it is working for Locus, and more.

Locus Technical Support & Training

What is your most common support case?

Our most common support case is user management related. Many times, our customers need assistance adding new users or updating their user lists. We receive a lot of requests for resetting passwords.  

What is the most unique case you’ve seen?

Almost ten years ago, there was a bug within SQL itself! It was quite a mystery. We would venture to say that we have at least one unique case every week. No single case is the same! It certainly keeps us on our toes. We also had a case once where an organization was acquired by another organization. Due to this, we had to rename the users and organizations which ended up resulting in over 300 user changes which impacted historic records. 

What is your average response time?

It is our policy to respond to all cases within two hours of receiving them (given that they come in between the hours of 5am and 3pm Pacific Time). If they come in outside of those hours, we respond within 2 hours of beginning our normal hours. We get many compliments on how speedy our response times are! It is the policy of the team for Tier 1 staff members to check new cases every thirty minutes or so. Critical issues typically receive almost immediate responses! Quick response times are one of our proudest achievements.  

Can you name a case that made a great impact on the user?

We have had many cases where we have received numerous thank yous from the customer. There has been a time or two when a customer did a widespread data update without meaning to. Our quick response and ability to revert their changes was much appreciated. We have also been known to help our customers with some very interesting issues that require quite a bit of troubleshooting on our end. The Support Team is incredibly patient and willing to dive deep into questions that customer’s come to us with. 

What is something people may not know about the support team?

The Locus Support Team consists of many individuals from a variety of backgrounds ranging from Environmental Engineering, Biology, Environmental Science, Environmental Health and Safety, Mathematics, Data Management, GIS, and much more! The Tier 1 team consists of three outstanding individuals who work across the Support Team, Engineering Team, anConfiguration team. The Tier 2 team consists of a wide variety of developers, configurators, and specialists in the field. Together, the Locus Support team has over 75 years of combined experience in the Environmental field. We have a few folks on the team that have outward appearances outside of the norm ranging from long hair, piercings, tattoos, and even purple hair.  

How has working more hours remotely affected your team?

Because our team is spread across the United States, with team members working out of the Asheville and Mountain View offices, as well as remote employees, we haven’t been impacted as much by the stay at home COVID-19 orders. Our team has always excelled at communication through email and other online chat services. The ability to talk through tools such as Teams and Skype, has given us the advantage edge during this pandemic. In addition, a large number of our Support Team are remote employees ranging across California, Tennessee, Indiana, Utah, and many other states. 

What is your favorite part about working on the Locus support team?

The first answer that came to the team was that we are all a family! We are incredibly supportive and encouraging of one another and we have FUN while working!  One of the fun things that we all have in common is our deeprooted love for animals. One of our favorite pastimes is sharing pictures of our animals, as well as their silly antics! We also like to share about our parenting concerns, particularly during COVID-19 times! Locus is an amazing place to work, in part because of the educated, experienced and awesome personalities we have working as a WHOLE team, rather than just a support team.  When asked, the number one response was the friendly and family-like atmosphere.  

What certificates/degrees does the support team hold?

Locus Expertise Infographic

Master of Applied Science  

  • Environmental Policy and Management 
  • Environmental Engineering 
  • Biology 


  • Crisis, Emergency and Disaster Management 
  • Emergency Management 

Bachelor of Science 

  • Environmental Science 
  • Environmental Chemistry 
  • Civil Engineering  
  • Physical Geography 
  • Mathematics 
  • Integrated Science and Technology 


  • FEMA Certifications 
  • ISO 9001, 9000 and 14000 Internal and Lead Auditor Certification 
  • Accredited GHG Verififier 
  • 40-hr HazWoper 
  • Graduate certificate in GIS 

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Utilizing the Uniqueness of GIS for Better Environmental Data Analysis

Today is GIS Day, a day started in 1999 to showcase the many uses of geographical information systems (GIS). Earlier Locus blog posts have shown how GIS supports cutting-edge visualization of objects in space and over time. This post is going to go “back to basics” and discuss what makes GIS unique and how environmental data analysis benefits from that uniqueness.

Spatial vs Non-Spatial Relationships

So, what makes GIS unique? It’s the ability of GIS to handle spatial relationships, which goes beyond just putting “dots on a map”. You are probably familiar with non-spatial relationships such as greater than, less than, or equal to, and you probably use them every day. For example, suppose you want to buy the latest gaming console (PS5, anyone?). You need to compare the price of the console to your bank account. If the console price is greater than your savings, then you cannot buy the console.

Or can you? With credit cards, you can pay later, so you go charge the console. At the time of the transaction, some software evaluates a non-spatial relationship and checks if the console price plus your current debt is less than your credit limit. If so, you can buy the console; if not, your purchase is denied.

The key point about this example is that spatial relations play no part. It doesn’t matter where you are located or where the game console is sold from. (OK, there may be things like state taxes and shipping, but that just contributes to the price.) Now, if you were trying to find all gaming consoles for sale within a certain distance of you, that is a spatial relationship. There are multiple types of spatial relationship, but the most common are inside, contains, crosses, overlaps, and within a distance of. Standard relational database software does not handle these sorts of relations, but GIS can.

As an illustration, let’s consider two current events: the 2020 US presidential election and the COVID-19 pandemic. With non-spatial relationships, you can answer various questions such as “did Biden get more votes than Clinton?” or “is the number of positive COVID tests increasing?”. But with spatial relations, you can answer more interesting questions such as “did areas with COVID hot spots vote more predominantly for Biden or Trump?”. For this question you must see if voters lie inside a COVID hot spot; a GIS can perform this analysis and then map the results. While many votes are still being counted, as of this blog post, it appears Trump performed better in COVID hot spots.

Spatial Relationships in Environmental Data

Let’s look at some example of spatial relations in environmental data. Assume you have a database of tritium sampling results in water, along with various map layers of natural and manmade features. What kind of spatial relationships can you explore with GIS?

To answer that, we’ll make some maps with the Locus GIS+ package in EIM, Locus’s cloud-based, software-as-a-service application for environmental data management. All maps shown here display wells with tritium samples, with the wells represented as colored circles. The color scale goes from blue through yellow to red, to indicate increasing tritium results.

Figure 1 shows an example of an inside spatial relationship. The map answers the question “what wells with tritium results are inside the Mortandad Canyon watershed?”. The watershed is highlighted in blue on the map, and you can easily see the wells inside the watershed.

Locus GIS | Wells with tritium

Figure 1: Wells with tritium within a watershed

Figure 2 shows wells with tritium results that are within a distance of a river. The map answers the question “what wells with tritium results are within 500 ft of the river?”. The river, highlighted in light blue, has a 500 ft buffer shown as a dotted blue line. The wells with tritium that lie within the buffer are shown on the map, so you can check if any high tritium results are close to the waterway.

Locus GIS | Wells with tritium

Figure 2: Wells with tritium within a specified distance of a river

Figure 3 shows another example of within a distance of. Here, the map answers the question “what wells with tritium results are within two miles of a middle school?”. The two-mile radius is shown as a shaded blue circle centered on the school. You can see the wells are confined to the area southeast of the school.

Locus GIS | Wells with tritium

Figure 3: Wells with tritium within a specified distance of a school

These three examples are just a small subset of what can be done with GIS and environmental data. Here are some other questions illustrating the kind of spatial analysis that GIS supports.

  • Have any spill incidents at my site been within a specified distance of a waterway?
  • Do any pipelines at my site cross protected waterways?
  • Do any remediation areas at my site contain wells that have recorded high chemical levels in water?
  • Does the underground plume from a chemical release overlap any aquifers?

All these examples illustrate the power of GIS for analyzing spatial relationships, and these examples are just the beginning. GIS can also perform more sophisticated analyses that look at spatial relationships in different ways to answer questions such as:

  • How confident can we be in the results of the spatial relationship analysis?
  • Do all data records follow the spatial relationship, or are any outliers that fall outside the norms?
  • Has this spatial relationship changed over time? Has the relation grown stronger or weaker?
  • Can we predict the future of the spatial relationships?

Locus continues to bring new analysis tools to our Locus GIS+ system for environmental applications. These applications let you take advantage of the unique ability of GIS to analyze spatial relationships in your environmental data.

Acknowledgments: All the data in EIM used in the examples was obtained from the publicly available chemical datasets online at Intellus New Mexico.

Interested in Locus’ GIS solutions?

Locus GIS+ features all of the functionality you love in EIM’s classic Google Maps GIS for environmental management—integrated with the powerful cartography, interoperability, & smart-mapping features of Esri’s ArcGIS platform!

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[sc_image width=”150″ height=”150″ src=”16303″ style=”11″ position=”centered” disable_lightbox=”1″ alt=”Dr. Todd Pierce”]

About the Author—Dr. Todd Pierce, Locus Technologies

Dr. Pierce manages a team of programmers tasked with development and implementation of Locus’ EIM application, which lets users manage their environmental data in the cloud using Software-as-a-Service technology. Dr. Pierce is also directly responsible for research and development of Locus’ GIS (geographic information systems) and visualization tools for mapping analytical and subsurface data. Dr. Pierce earned his GIS Professional (GISP) certification in 2010.

Sustainability is More Important Now Than Ever

The global economy is currently being tested on a magnitude that we have never witnessed before. The effects of COVID-19 have pushed the limits of individuals, and the organizations that they run. As we collectively face short-term problems related to the pandemic, long-term effects of climate change have, in some ways, been magnified. When the dust settles, and we tackle COVID-19, we will still be facing the consequences of climate change. It is now, however, not after COVID-19 is controlled, that organizations must make steps towards tackling environmental issues. On a positive note, there is a return on investment in sustainability, and there are pragmatic ways of achieving sustainable goals.

Factory with smokestacks and pond- Locus sustainability management software solutions

The connection between saving money and resources and investing in sustainability is well known. Year after year, sustainable projects result in billions of dollars in savings for the companies investing in them. By 2030, return on investment in sustainability will be $26 trillion. And while those companies investing in sustainability have better numbers, they’re continuing to push for higher sustainability goals, as are government agencies. Companies not making these investments are not only missing out financially, but they are falling behind when it comes to long-term preparedness. Without a doubt, the organizations who are acting first have the leg up. When it comes to sustainability, two proverbs attributed to Benjamin Franklin are as true as when he first said them. “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”, and “a penny saved is a penny earned.” Pair those variables with the ever-growing awareness and importance of sustainability by the green investor and the green consumer and you have a powerful combination.

Nearly 80,000 emission-reducing projects by 190 Fortune 500 companies reporting data showed nearly $3.7 billion in savings in 2016 alone. – WWF | worldwildlife.org

With climate-related issues comprising the top five long-term risks in terms of likelihood, the need for investing in sustainability becomes all the more apparent.  This sentiment is mirrored in a recent Bloomberg article, where Bill Gates suggests that the most difficult long-term problem facing the world today is climate change, and the effect it has on the environment. While outlining several difficulties, he points to one shining light in the fight to sustain a healthy climate: the acceleration and innovation of technology over the past two decades created to tackle the problem. Not many understand more than Locus the fight to maintain, and reduce, and use resources wisely. Locus has, for over two decades, provided advanced tools to improve sustainability on a grand scale.

Locus Platform Sustainability

Several organizations have taken advantage of the sustainability software solutions Locus provides. One example is Del Monte Foods, one of the largest producers of food in the world. They partnered with Locus for sustainability data management, eliminating errors in old data and better monitoring resource usage and cost. They also use Locus’ sustainability app to visualize and report data on the fly. They are tackling sustainability from a practical standpoint, addressing real data, not a nebulous idea. And they have been better off for acting early instead of waiting.

Farmer in wheat field- environmental information management for Agricultural industry

In the end, we must address the problems that face us. We need to tackle COVID-19 and how it affects our organizations, but be mindful that every quarter and every year that sustainability goals are pushed back, there are dollars being lost seeking out attainable improvements to our environment. Not only that, but every step that isn’t taken towards sustainable goals is a step behind other organizations making practical investments in their future and the wellbeing of everyone.

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Indirect Impacts of COVID-19 on EHS Industry

For the better part of 2020, it’s safe to say that predominant changes to our daily lives have been brought on by COVID-19 and the associated response measures. This is certainly true for those of us working in the EHS field. EHS workers have an active role on the front lines, preparing our workplaces with new safety measures, including social distancing signage, training, and personal protective equipment (PPE).

Impacts of COVID-19 on EHS | Locus

Beyond those direct response actions, the realities of the ‘new normal’ have already impacted how other compliance and sustainability programs are implemented.  And for good reason… many of the routine activities like inspections and onsite data collections now have a new safety issue to consider. Even with all the new protective measures we’ve implemented to address this pandemic, there remains some unavoidable added health risk caused simply by staff presence and interaction. For activities that are not mandated by a permit or regulatory requirement, the benefit of continuing those activities must now be weighed against the added health risk.  For example, a daily waste inventory walkthrough may have been a standard routine for many EHS managers to collect data on waste generation as a key performance indicator. The value of that data collection effort may now be called into question, since it may increase travel and contact between staff. Depending on the value of those optional activities, some may be temporarily suspended simply because they are not worth the additional risk to health and safety 

For compliance requirements, this situation is more complex, due to the involvement and oversight of the applicable regulatory agency. The ultimate decision about whether a compliance activity must proceed generally lies with the regulator. The majority of EHS managers initially proceeded with meeting all their obligations without any changes.  Although there are many applicable state and local ordinances and shelter-in-place orders related to COVID-19 that prohibited normal business operations, most of them include exceptions for activities that are ‘essential’ or required to maintain compliance with other regulatory programs.  Public agencies have made very few blanket decisions to waive requirements for regulatory programs, even when they conflict with those local ordinances.

Manager in hardhat looking over his factory-Locus automation and sensors solutions prepare your organization for the Internet of Things

Despite the lack of a uniform response from agencies about whether or how compliance programs should be modified to accommodate COVID-19 precautions, I’ve observed several cases where regulatory staff have been given some level of authority and discretion to suspend or modify requirements. This is happening at federal, state, and local levels for various regulatory programs ranging from Superfund to GHG programs to land use covenants.  I’ve experienced required deadlines delayed on remediation projects, modified approaches accepted for health risk mitigation, and on-site inspections postponed or drastically modified to accommodate social distancing. Any of these changes would have been unthinkable just a few months earlier.  But now the regulators are seriously considering whether the continued enforcement of these requirements would create a potential health risk, and how their agency would defend their decision if the implementation of their requirements impacted someone’s health.

This ad hoc approach to compliance modifications brings its own new challenges for EHS managers, most of whom have detailed programs to track their efforts and ensure they stay on top of all the applicable compliance programs. Most of the regulatory programs that we work in have been in place for many years or decades, so the systems we’ve built up for those programs have been operating with minimal deviation for a long time.  But now, in addition to the original set of requirements we’ve been implementing, we have new modified versions to track. In all the cases I’ve observed, the original requirements aren’t officially edited by the agency. Rather, the agency staff have issued temporary amendments in the form of a letter, memo, or email.   So EHS managers will need to maintain the original requirements as well as the approved modifications in these various formats. Regulators are still planning that eventually these COVID-19 precautions will be lifted, so they can get back to the ‘old normal’ with the previous requirements we’ve implemented for years. This means that we can’t just overwrite the requirements in our compliance program, so we stay prepared to revert to the original official requirements if/when that happens.

Engineer with tablet and oil rig tower- Locus software solutions for the Energy, Oil & Gas industries

The long-term impact of these compliance modifications is yet to be seen.  The COVID-19 pandemic has forced more thought to be put into the cost/benefit of routine EHS activities. This is true not just for EHS managers but for regulators as well.   

Since many EHS compliance programs have been largely unchanged for years, this is a rare opportunity to rethink or update those requirements. Technology has advanced significantly since many EHS requirements were written. This technology offers better and safer methods to achieve the same objectives. For example, I’ve attended several remote EHS inspections over the past few months, which were previously conducted in person. And after those inspections were completed, I can’t think of anything that was reduced or lost in terms of oversight.  For some facilities, I’ve also seen remote automated monitoring used in place of manual field measurements, where it was previously only considered supplemental to the required manual data collection. Although the regulations technically required this work to be done in person, the remote versions were just as effective, and completely avoided the added health risks associated with physical gathering and travel.

So instead of wondering ‘When can we go back to the old normal?’ we might ask ‘Should we go back to the old normal?’  The regulatory programs we work with were designed to be protective of human health and the environment, but they were also mostly developed when things like handheld phones with live video were present only in science fiction.  Obviously, these technologies are not new anymore, but this situation has provided an unprecedented opportunity to implement these alternatives, and ultimately confirm that they can be just as protective as the former methods they replaced.  In addition to the cost savings that these options provide, there is a very real safety concern that they circumvent. And while cost-effectiveness is usually a difficult point on which to drive regulatory change, a safety issue is harder to dismiss.

EHS Hardhats and Jackets

While it still may be a while before we reach the end of this pandemic, there’s a lot we have already learned about how resilient EHS programs can accommodate this kind of major event. If we use this opportunity to engage with regulators, and closely review and update our programs, there’s no doubt they will only become stronger and better suited to the modern workplace and way of life.

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