Click on the link of the article you wish to read: Dialing #dig On Your Cellular Phone Limiting Damage Claims Mapping/NTDPC "One-Calls" Using Railroad Location Criteria Damage Prevention and Safe Excavation Active Involvement in Facility Damage Prevention Activities The Ongoing Role of Facility Damage Prevention Dialing #dig On Your Cellular Phone It’s safe to say that in today’s fast paced, high tech. environment, underground facility reliability is more critical than ever. This fact, coupled with record numbers of excavation projects nationally, makes “Call Before You Dig” and “Dig Safely” the cornerstone for worker safety and infrastructure dependability. With this in mind, the Southeast Underground Facility Protection Council (SEUFPC), a regional extension of the National Telecommunications Damage Prevention Council (NTDPC), decided in 1999 to explore ways to make it easier for anyone digging to contact their state One-Call notification center to request a locate. Recognizing that the excavator community is a highly mobile workforce, this team decided to pursue solicitation of wireless providers around the country to offer a 3 digit dialing service that would connect the caller to the appropriate state One-Call center “free of charge”. This new feature would be known as #dig(#344). The SEUFPC also had a goal of assuring that this new process would be a win-win for all parties. Providing another option for excavators to utilize when needing to contact their local One-Call center became a “win” for them by increasing the ease of calling when needing locates. By encouraging more calls to report digging projects, the likelihood of damage to the very cables relied upon to provide cellular service, was reduced. This is a very important “win” for the wireless companies. The team invited representatives from various wireless companies to attend a meeting at which time they were given a presentation on the merits of offering the #dig feature to their customers. The idea was received with welcomed enthusiasm and in June 2000, AT&T Wireless, Sprint PCS and Bell South Mobility deployed the #dig feature in various major cities around the country. The first 7 “test” cities were; Los Angeles, CA, Miami, FL, Orlando, FL, Atlanta, GA, Charlotte, NC, Denver, CO and New York, NY. Several national contractor associations were asked to notify their membership in these areas and make them aware of this new service. It wasn’t long before the team was receiving positive feedback from excavators expressing the value of this feature in helping them schedule work and easily contact the One-Call centers for other services when needed. Activating this service with other wireless carriers and in all parts of the country is ongoing. Currently, AT&T Wireless provides this feature nationally in all their service areas. In states where AT&T Wireless has contracts with other carriers, negotiations are progressing to provide #dig availability in these locations too. Sprint PCS is providing this service in Atlanta, GA presently with plans to expand throughout their service area in the near future. Cingular Wireless has #dig deployed in the Great Lakes states; Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin. Also, SouthernLINC Inc., a division of the southeastern-US based Southern Company has made the #dig feature available to their customers throughout that network. For cellular telephone customers of companies not yet providing this service, contact your company representative and ask if they have plans to offer this feature. Damage prevention of underground facilities impacts everyone. #dig is just another tool to be used in the effort to reduce damages, provide improved public service and enhance homeland security nationally. Communication, Cooperation Are Key Factors In Limiting Damage Claims Anybody who is in the damage prevention loop knows that communication is everything. The perfect-world scenario is that all excavators call before they dig, all underground facility operators belong to their respective one-call center and mark their facilities accurately, and both sides communicate before any work is performed to ensure that all bases are covered. Communication and cooperation are the cornerstones of protecting the underground infrastructure. Of course, this isn’t a perfect world, and both excavators and facility operators are often guilty of not communicating enough. The less the communication, the more likely a facility hit will occur and the more likely a damage claim will result. There are obvious costs incurred by both excavators and facility operators from facility strikes, including damaged or destroyed equipment, loss of product, downtime, and most importantly, physical injury or death. Role Of Communication While preventing damages is the ultimate goal, communication doesn’t end preventative measures. When something does get hit, communication among all involved parties can make life a lot easier on everybody, and reduce costs. We all hear stories of contractors receiving unwarranted bills for lines that were mis-marked, or facility operators who can’t even get a call back from a contractor to discuss a particular hit. All too often, these cases end up in court without even a discussion to hash things out between the players. If excavators and facility operators would talk to each other in the wake of a facility hit, they might find that a damage claim is not necessary. Take AT&T, for example. The telecom giant has a unique policy regarding claims that provides a forum for AT&T and contract excavators to discuss damages before a claim is even filed. John Visi, AT&T’s corporate claims district manager and active member of the National Telecommunications Damage Prevention Council (NTDPC) believes that communication can result in fewer claims by promoting two-way communications between AT&T and the contractor involved. Make no mistake, AT&T has the right to take legal action to recover damage expenses, but Visi believes this adds unnecessary expenses. A 32-year veteran of the company, Visi has managed AT&T’s uninsured claims process for more than 12 years and is currently the chairman of the National Telecommunications Claims Managers Association, (NTCMA). During his tenure in claims, his policy has been to establish liability first and negotiate with the damaging party second. AT&T’s claim efforts over the last 10 years have resulted in out-of-court settlements on all but two facility damage claims. This remarkable record comes from thorough investigation of damage incidents, determination of cause and liability of each damage, and negotiation with the damaging party. “AT&T takes a ‘two-way street’ approach to claims,” said Visi. “This symbolizes critical two-way communication and cooperation between the excavator and AT&T, and this policy promotes continued good business relations, minimized time and expenses, and avoidance of costly legal actions.” During negotiations, AT&T considers compliance with the respective one-call law, but also how the contractor interacts with AT&T representatives at the damage site. In the event of a damaged facility, the first thing AT&T looks for is the one-call ticket. When issues of contractor liability are clear, it is important for the contractor to recognize that it is his/her responsibility to participate in negotiations and present all relevant facts. Of course, the flip side of this is that facility operators should follow the same rules of engagement when the responsibility lies with them. Contractors incur costs from facility hits too, and often do not pursue recovery of these damages because either they don’t ask or don’t have the resources to take the other side to court if necessary. Both sides have a duty to settle the claim, minimize additional expenses, and continue working within a productive business environment. AT&T has an obligation to recover monetary losses associated with damage repairs when the fault lies with another party, as is true with any innocent party. Visi claims that AT&T will pursue recovery of damage expenses, loss of use dollars and all other expenses in cases where the excavator ignores all billing letters and attempts to promote communication. “The ‘one-way street’ approach only leads to increased expense payouts for both companies and a hostile business environment for everybody,” he said. Interaction Without Court Costs When a facility is damaged, AT&T responds with a letter of intent to bill. A complete itemized bill for all temporary expenses, permanent repair costs, and claims expenses is provided. A complete and thorough investigation begins at the time of the damage, which includes discussions with the one-call center and review of the one-call ticket. Accuracy of facility locations and marks is also evaluated. Discussions about what happened are held with AT&T’s on-site employees and the involved excavator(s). The excavator is encouraged to provide all the details from their perspective, especially if there are contradictory opinions as to root cause of the damage. AT&T invites all details regarding costs incurred by the contractor to be considered in their investigation. See the common theme, here? All of this interaction takes place before there is any talk of legal action. Communication can lead to trust, which can lead to a productive working relationship between facility operators and the contractors who work for them. If there is a facility hit, the likelihood of an out-of-court settlement is much higher between two parties who communicate than between two company representatives who are unfamiliar with each other. There are contractors out there who have seen this communication evolve into relationships that have increased their bottom line. These contractors discuss the details of facility damages with their customers and document their findings regarding responsibility for each incident. The contactors and operators discuss the costs and responsibility of facility hits over a period of time, evaluate who owes whom for what, and negotiate an informal settlement. Sometimes the contractor cuts the facility owner a check, sometimes it’s the other way around. Or, sometimes it’s simply a “wash.” The bottom line, however, is that both sides settle on good terms, and the productive working relationship continues. The Spirit of “Common Ground” For those who participated in the development of the Common Ground Study of One Call Systems and Damage Prevention Best Practices and are involved in the Common Ground Alliance, the non-profit organization dedicated to shared responsibility in damage prevention, this approach to damages should be well received. Common Ground showed us initially that our worlds aren’t so far apart. Nobody wants to see facility damages, and when all parties involved do their part, excavation damage will inevitably be reduced. Damage prevention is about talking to one another. Excavators must notify one call. Facility operators must belong to one call. Excavators and facility operators should meet before an excavation. Damages must be reported. And when facilities are damaged, the parties involved should communicate. There are bound to be differences of opinion about root cause and responsibility in some cases, but would you rather settle the matter over a cup of coffee or before a judge? AT&T’s approach should be considered by other facility operators, and contractors should try to forge better relationships with their facility customers. Facility damages will still be unavoidable to a certain extent, but the more communication and cooperation we have, the less that extent will be. Mapping / NTDPC Location, location, location! In the world of facility locating, mapping is crucial to the lifeblood of the industry. The realm of mapping encompasses the excavators, facility owners, and One-Call Centers in how they manage their business on a daily basis. From the excavator who contacts the state One-Call agency to open a “dig” ticket, the facility owner who registers the location of the facilities to protect the integrity of their assets, to the One-Call who deals with the ongoing task of maintaining a sound geographic street database, mapping touches each of these entities in different aspects. Excavator / Contractor With the advancement of on-line mapping databases, contractors now have the ability to enter tickets on-line. This feature has proven to be a great benefit in supporting the state One-Call Center’s overall operating expenses. Training contractors is necessary to insure that ticket field requirements are fulfilled and work locations are properly identified. Incorrect use of these systems could ultimately result in improper notification. Electronic mapping is no exception requiring a thorough understanding of how information is interpreted. Databases such as GDT have a positional accuracy of 5 to 7 meters in enhanced areas. Latitude/Longitude coordinates also can assist some state agencies to ensure the correct dig location is being marked. In addition, contractors can reap the rewards of mapping’s technological advancements by obtaining a Global Positioning Systems (GPS) unit and provide GPS coordinates to the One-Call to pinpoint excavation sites to within acceptable levels of accuracy. Facility Registration Over the years, utility companies have worked with the One-Call on improving the methodology used to register their facilities. Facility owners such as the long haul pipelines and communications companies are seeking the ability to redefine their registration to ultimately reduce the amount of unwanted tickets. The notification process has evolved immensely throughout the years. Many One- Call’s were first set up to notify by a “large area” such as a place within a county. Until recently, the common practice was to register facility data in a grid format such as the Public Land Survey System (PLSS.) The problem with notifying by a grid coverage is that it is limited to a specified area, and therefore, difficult to reduce the corridor of notification. More advanced methods known as polygonal support allows facility owners to create a polygonal coverage of their facility data with a desired buffer. The polygonal coverage serves as an overlay to the One-Call Center’s base street layer and appears to be the preference and direction in which the industry is headed. One-Call One-Call Centers throughout the nation are working towards standardizing how facility data is accepted. The industry is recognizing the need for a central repository for street data. Facility owners will have the ability to utilize the One-Call’s geographic street database on-line to create facility polygons or to view their facility coverage file submitted to the One-Call. In addition, the process will prove to be invaluable by allowing all facility owners to view the identical map used by the One-Call to process locate requests. Advancements in mapping systems have allowed some One-Call Centers to incorporate latitude and longitude coordinates into their applications. Incorporating this feature will benefit excavators when determining the excavation site, especially in rural areas. Other data features such as lakes, schools, businesses, landmarks, etc., are incorporated into digital maps to assist in finding the location of the excavation site. Some One-Call Centers are currently incorporating aerial photography as an active layer. Street centerline data and mapping themes can then be rectified to match the ortho images. Incorporating an effective mapping application will benefit the excavators and facility owners by saving time and money. However, every project is associated with a cost, and One-Call Centers are faced with ongoing challenges pertaining to funding and maintenance. The ultimate goal for the One-Call is to work with facility owners, government agencies, board of directors, etc., to develop a mapping system which will improve the notification process, protect the underground infrastructure, and assist in the safety of the excavating community. National Telecommunications Screening Center Forum UNCC "One-Calls" Using Railroad Location Criteria The recent lowering of a railroad line, requiring excavation below sea level, to improve the movement of trains to and from the ports in the Los Angeles area, while also improving the automobile and pedestrian flows, is a noteworthy success story. The Alameda Corridor is a showcase example of how private industry, including railroads and utilities, government agencies and the public can find numerous benefits and win-win solutions when all are willing to "partner." This project became a little told story of how hundreds of buried utility facilities that were affected in one way or another were protected through effective coordination of location information and, in turn, protection of these facilities. "Call Before You Dig" centers are an integral part of the whole process. The updating of records of road-rail crossings that once were at grade and are now grade-separated is one example of the challenges that "one-call" centers and right-of-way owners are faced with daily. The effort to correctly identify a location that requires verification of underground facilities is one that demands accurate location data, paired with accurate facility information. This is a requirement, not only when things change significantly, as they did with the design and construction of the Alameda Corridor, but for any buried facility that requires protection. Some might refer to the location of a facility by use of a grid, or others with an address -- perhaps a latitude/longitude value, or a pipeline, highway or railroad milepost. In today's complex world the ability to share information that protects the underground infrastructure has never been more important. The representation of a spatial location on the earth, and its relationship to every underground facility, is the dream of every facility owner, contractor and locator. The use of latitude and longitude, GPS receivers, innovative locating devices and unique mapping vehicles bring tools to the underground world that can assist in providing location data to be shared to provide mutual benefits. It is evident that to optimize the use of these tools, users must be able to speak a common language. The frustration of not being able to communicate even the simplest ideas and thoughts can have dire consequences in the damage prevention world. Wrong addresses and telephone numbers are a nuisance to most people, but inaccuracies in the damage prevention arena can have deadly consequences. The need to accommodate any information received is evident if we are to be "user friendly" and effective. A frog to most people might remind them of a traumatic biology lab experience but, to a railroader, it is a track component. A pig, to most of us, is a farm animal meant for a good barbecue, but to the pipeline industry it is an effective inspection or locating device. We all bring to the table terms and knowledge of our respective industries. Any inability to share effectively, or any misunderstanding of that knowledge, can be a great hindrance. Providing facility location information to a "one-call" center, in only one format through only one acceptable method, is a hurdle that the NTDPC has tackled with success. Although street addresses typically work well in urban areas, they can make facility location in rural areas a challenge. Add the location of excavation along or near a railroad, and you can imagine some of the problems you might encounter. Railroads, pipelines and, to some extent, highways, typically "locate" their facilities by a milepost value and "route designation" (e.g. an Interstate Highway number) or "subdivision". Using a milepost value with a route identifier allows a facility owner to uniquely identify any location on its network. Adding the latitude and longitude at that point provides a remedy enabling the effective transmission of location data to a "one-call" center. The NTDPC has accepted this challenge working through its member company representatives, including railroad companies and One-Call Systems International. NTDPC has successfully partnered with "one-call" centers such as those in Arizona, Colorado and Tennessee and, through them, with their software vendors and developers. Ohio will soon be added to this list. The systems of these vendors are utilized by twenty- three call centers serving twenty-two states. It is anticipated that vendors serving "One- Calls" operating in other states and provinces will quickly join in participation. Allowing a railroad employee who works on many miles of track in many states and provinces to indicate his location in familiar terms gives the facility owner another "pair of eyes", in situations where "Mother Nature" or man might disrupt the underground facility world. A railroad response management communication center deals with any natural or man-made event that might affect rail operations. The electronic interface between facility owners and such railroad centers creates win/win solutions that improve damage prevention. The ability to "talk" with each other in a manner that both can understand -- the essence of effective communication -- goes a long way to help our respective industries and the public. The effective use of railroad mileposts and subdivisions brings hundreds, if not thousands of additional workers to more effective participation in the "prevention" arena. Our ever-changing world will always be a technological challenge, but improving communication and allowing effective input from various industries will do much to foster the partnering benefits that we all desire. The Alameda Corridor is a great success story where hundreds of underground utilities have now been protected, by all participants, due to improved communication. Obstacles remain, but when those interested in damage prevention come together, win/win solutions are achieved. Such is the effort and purpose of the NTDPC. Damage prevention has been well served! Damage Prevention and Safe Excavation By Duane Hobart – Damage Prevention, WilTel Communications Type “A-25”, Type “B-45”, Type “C-80”, simple slope, simple bench, multiple bench, vertically sided lower position, etc… you did not realize digging a hole was so complex. The National Telecommunications Damage Prevention Council (“NTDPC”) is not only interested in preventing facility damages, but more importantly wants our excavation partners to remain attentive and aware of potentially dangerous situations. Construction involving excavation has many variables, which field personnel and management must recognize. These variables include everything from contacting your local One-Call agency to work-site safety. Safe excavation begins with a call to your One-Call agency and ends with everyone going home safe and sound with a job well done. In order to accomplish the task at hand make sure you request facility locates well in advance of when you plan to do the work, usually 48-72 hours prior depending on the state, and reinforce the importance of adequate trenching and shoring in applicable construction situations. With the popularity of directional boring and trenchless technology in recent years, construction and utility companies have had fewer open trenches to contend with; therefore there may be perceived notions that trenching and shoring are not as prevalent as they have been in the past. That is not necessarily the case because in some of these operations, entry and exit pits must be dug and they frequently qualify as an excavation requiring compliance with OSHA rules. As you will see in the following example, regardless of whether you are boring in a 20- inch sewer line or a 4-inch telecommunication cable casing, the potential for serious damage, injury and ultimately death exists in our everyday work environment. “Four employees were boring a hole and pushing a 20-inch pipe casing under a road. The employees were in an excavation approximately 9 feet wide, 32 feet long and 7 feet deep. Steel plates 8’ x 15’ x ¾”, being used as shoring, were placed vertically against the north and south walls of the excavation at approximately 30 degree angles without horizontal braces between the steel plates. The south wall steel plates tipped over pinning and killing an employee between the steel plate and the pipe casing. At the time the plate tipped over a backhoe that was being operated adjacent to the excavation.” Specific regulations for excavation work, as required by OSHA, are found in the OSHA construction regulations at 29 CFR 1926.650-.652 and are the responsibility of every employee to know and follow for their safety and their co-workers safety. Before you begin an excavation, proper precautions are required (this information is not meant to be all inclusive but to compliment your overall training): Plan your work: o Excavators and directional drillers are required to know the applicable dig law for the state and plan accordingly. o As specified in the state dig laws, excavators must request the location of underground facilities at the work site via the One-Call Center and wait the required time for all facility owners to mark their plant. o If there are underground facilities in the proposed dig area, a pre- excavation meeting with the owner(s) or their representative(s) may be necessary. o If you are planning directional drilling, review the manufacturer’s specifications and operating procedures, and mark out the proposed drill path prior to your work beginning. o Obtain your locate (ticket) number and know its effective life. o Create a sketch (profile view) of the work to be performed, including a cross-section if directional drilling. Ensure underground installations are protected, supported, or removed as necessary to safeguard employees. Ensure that any surface obstacles, such as trees, rocks, and sidewalks, that may create a hazard for you and co-workers, are removed or secured. Classify the type of soil and rock deposits at the site (OSHA construction regulations at 29 CFR 1926.650-.652) as stable rock, type A, type B, or type C soil. The soil classification must be made by one visual and at least one manual analysis. Select the type of protective system that is appropriate for your situation: o Proper sloping and/or benching of the sides of the excavation. o Supporting the sides of the excavation with timber shoring or aluminum hydraulic shoring. o Placing a shield between the sides of the excavation and your work area. Inspect the excavation and adjacent areas daily prior to the start of work, after any changes in the work scene (rainstorm, heavy vibration, additional spoil piles, etc.), for evidence of possible cave-ins, failures of protective systems and equipment, hazardous atmospheres, or other hazardous conditions. This is an OSHA requirement. Your competent person must also be available throughout the workday, as needed, for inspection of the dig site and also to verify a utility locate was requested. DIG SAFELY! Active Involvement in Facility Damage Prevention Activities Why Coalitions are Important By Mike McCrary – Manager, BellSouth and Richard Nelson – Manager, Qwest In the January issue of Underground Focus the NTDPC feature article dealt with how to sustain an effective damage prevention program even during an economic downturn. Readers will recall that emphasis was placed on developing alliances, and building coalitions with other key groups. A quick look at the NTDPC’s roster, and that of excellent organizations such as the CGA, NUCA, AGC, NULCA, NASTT, many others - - all of the ‘acronyms’ that are our partners within the damage prevention arena – reveals a tremendous amount of expertise and energy focused on common goals. Perhaps you were one of those individuals who picked up a copy of this magazine at a recent industry event. You know damage prevention is important – but can you, or your company, dedicate the time, effort and resources needed to participate effectively? Do you feel that others can effectively address your concerns, or those specific to your industry, without your participation? You need to become involved – and you will be welcomed by your peers. Keep going to the industry shows, keep reading publications. These efforts will keep you abreast of new technologies, and provide valuable opportunities for networking and learning. Work with your state one-calls on their awareness efforts. Get involved with local utility coordination councils. Participate in any way that you can. As we look toward our 15th anniversary, the NTDPC continues to build upon and establish coalitions. Our history provides evidence of that fact – this group was originally formed to address common contractual issues associated with Southern Pacific Railroad’s California coastal cable duct system. It did not take long for the California “common” long-distance carriers to realize that their network integrity and reliability were linked to that of the local exchange carriers (LECs). There are LECs everywhere, and railroads go everywhere, and the NTDPC has grown. And, while NTDPC member companies may be seen battling each other in the competitive telecom environment and in the media, when it comes to damage prevention our members share common goals and objectives. These goals are very simple - we want people to call the one-call centers before they dig, wait the required time before beginning the proposed excavation, respect the locate marks, and then dig with care. Sound familiar? It should. NTDPC members support and promote “Dig Safely” efforts. Our members had – and have - leadership roles in the Common Ground Study, the Path Forward and the Common Ground Alliance. We work tirelessly to improve one-call, or ‘dig’ legislation, mapping potential, operational center capabilities, and worksite safety awareness. The NTDPC has provided training seminars, judged industry locating and excavating competitions, and distributed educational materials with a damage prevention focus until our arms hurt. Recently, NTDPC members were encouraged when the President signed the Pipeline Safety Improvement Act - a law requiring an easy, abbreviated code for excavators to utilize in contacting the appropriate one-call notification center. Why? Because we saw the need for this damage prevention and public safety feature in 1999, and have been building the coalition for implementation in the wireless environment since then. Today many major cellular providers provide this service (#DIG, or #344) at no cost to the user. If your provider does not, let them know you would value this feature! Is the NTDPC the only group working for better awareness of underground facilities, and damage prevention? Definitely NOT, but we are proud of our working role within the greater damage prevention coalition. We invite interested individuals to take a look at our website – http://www.ntdpc.com – and see if there is a nice fit there. If there is something on our site that can be utilized with your damage prevention efforts, by all means take advantage. Questions, including membership, can be referred to any of our participating members. If you feel there is a better fit for you or your company with another ‘acronym’ – perhaps a group more focused on your particular industry - we would highly recommend that you pursue membership and get actively involved. After all, we’ll probably see you there! The Ongoing Role of Facility Damage Prevention Recent economic events, including September 11th, 2001 and the collapse of multiple major corporations have had a far-reaching impact on the telecom industry at large, and damage prevention efforts sponsored by those companies. We are pleased to report efforts within the telecom sector to promote damage prevention have fared well and survived due to the overall benefits and quantifiable cost avoidance posted by those efforts. A broad-based approach to prevention can have long-term benefits. The mindset that you have to guard against is the dilemma of all preventative efforts, which is that when they are successful, they appear to have been completely unnecessary. Entities such as the Common Ground Alliance (CGA) and the National Telecommunications Damage Prevention Council (NTDPC) continue to develop, strategize, form new alliances, and remain vigilant in promoting damage prevention - continuing the vision both organizations regard as vital to protecting public safety and all buried facilities. From a telecom perspective, we are encouraged not only by these new partnerships formed, but also by the fact that this allows all interested groups to be a party to the solution. While external factors - the economy and weather, for instance - impact damage levels, strict internal facility owner self-assessment, including formal damage prevention programs, are effective. The successes observed from strong damage prevention programs have allowed the telecom industry to dissect information, and then focus on key areas to enhance our coalition with other groups, industries and partners. Many of these key areas will be briefly discussed in this article. Impact A strong “proactive” damage prevention effort equates to long term cost avoidance and company profitability. A reactive damage prevention effort provides a short term deterrent. One cannot make a good argument that should the current downward damage trend hold, the company will “save” that money. However, it is easily verifiable and logical to state that when any company’s overall damage index improves, those avoided damages can be calculated into dollars saved and can be quickly tracked back to a strong damage prevention program. Avoided damages can be measured in numerous ways - reduced overtime hours expended, enhanced claims recovery probability, reduced customer trouble reports, heightened satisfaction and customer retention, technicians working on proactive plant improvement and service installation rather than restoration(s), and reduced negative media targeting. These are only a few arguments for corporate support of a damage prevention program. Protect what you already have; it’s cheaper than the alternative. Individual employee action can be easily correlated to improvements in corporate damage results. Here are a few examples: - Involvement with utility coordination councils, one-call centers, public forums with a damage prevention focus - Strict adherence to all internal damage prevention programs and guidelines - Putting effective indicator/measurement systems in place - Conducting accurate, timely Claims investigative work - Utilizing conventional or digital camera technology during investigative work - Accurate time and material reporting - Participating in awareness activities – newsletters, literature, etc. - Identifying critical facility routes, updating plant records and schematics - Periodically checking the status of cable route marking systems, to ensure damaged or missing signs/marks are replaced Legislative Involvement With issuance of the Common Ground study of best practices (1999) we have seen additional emphasis on revising state one-call laws to further protect all affected parties. The national Facilities Solution Team, commissioned by the Network Reliability Steering Committee and comprised of excavators, facility owners, locate companies and enforcement agencies, issued (2000) a model legislation guideline, which provided suggested minimum standards in the spirit of Common Ground. Locally, damage prevention personnel should become involved in the legislative process as early as possible, working with their legal/regulatory contacts on crafting the new language, or reviewing proposed changes. From a damage prevention perspective, here are a few keys to look for: Mandatory participation in the one-call notification process. Clear, enforceable penalties. The monetary component is a deterrent, but if the enforcement body is disinterested, it carries no weight. Needed are reasonable penalties, which appropriately increase for willful negligence or documented poor performance. Creation of cross-entity advisory boards, or peer-review boards, could assist with objectivity. Inclusion of new technological segments, e.g. horizontal directional drilling – specific language. Specific responsibilities designed to minimize risk within the defined “tolerance zone”. Defined limits on locate tickets – for instance, lifespan or maximum size. Clear definitions on what constitutes an emergency situation, timelines, updates/renewals, and the responsibilities of both facility owner and excavator. Facility Locating Technological and locator training improvements in this arena represent one of the greater opportunities for reducing the frequency and severity of facility damages. Many telecom companies have outsourced locating at the local level, striving for overall service improvements while better controlling expenditures. While compliance with federal regulations requires an ‘arms-length’ relationship between owner and contractor, both sides should be involved in efforts designed to reduce the impact and incidence of facility damages. These efforts would involve activities such as: - Completion and review of performance objectives, as a requirement of contractual obligations between facility owner and contractor. - Regularly performing internal/external “Quality and Performance” audits, in real-time if possible. This serves as an indicator of performance objectives met, or lacking. - Useful metrics, most commonly locator-attributable damages per 1000 delivered locate opportunities The improvement of locator performance, and subsequent reduction in locator- attributable damages resides in monitoring contract activity, and execution at all levels. Damage Prevention Administration Basic components of a damage prevention program include such items as: - Dedication of personnel solely to this task - Identification of high risk/critical routes - Utilization of permanent/high visibility marking systems - Detailed root cause analysis of all major damages in your area, with a post- mortem review to hopefully prevent a repeat occurrence - Conducting random excavation job site stops, or ‘courtesy stops’, insourced/outsourced, formal/informal, and management/craft/both – have a presence and be visible. - Continuous improvement of networking/communications across all departments, and especially other utilities, via the one-call center. Several one-call centers now have Public Relation liaisons that can maximize your company’s reach to the excavating community. Expectations and Accountability As noted throughout this article, there are numerous ways for employees to contribute to a damage prevention program. It is imperative that employees know state specific one-call law(s), to better determine when there has been a possible violation. When employees take personal ownership of the outside plant they maintain, a very effective defense will be formed. If an employee can’t or prefers not to confront an excavator for personal reasons, simply knowing the law enables that employee to contact the assigned damage prevention or area manager. Managers responsible for Quality & Performance should have damage matrices as part of their performance evaluation. Regular contact and face-to-face time with contractors, excavators, and other utilities is imperative. Remember that damage prevention is everyone’s responsibility. Worth mentioning here is the role of the Security/Risk Management/Claims organization, and that of the individual damage prevention investigators. Historically, this group has been at the forefront of damage prevention - one of the most valuable, visible resources. With this group’s input and assistance, your team can incorporate and implement methods and procedures, activities/practices such as those noted above to maximize the company’s asset return and damage avoidance. This heightened level of involvement will ensure a higher success rate on collections, due to the greater attention to detail. While claims collections should not be viewed as a revenue stream for individual companies (all would state a preference for no damages!), the collections themselves serve as a deterrent. Comparison/Metrics 1. How are you doing in damage prevention? 2. Follow-up: How do you know that? At industry forums, conventions, etc. many individuals are quick to point out that their damage prevention program is successful! Damages are ‘way down’. When pressed (Hey, what worked? Will that work for us?) there is generally a lack of solid quantifiable data, which was applied consistently, or any actual metrics to back up their statements. Most often, improvement has been noted over some raw number from the previous year. Knowledge of historical trends, activity in a given area, and external factors are necessary. Statistical process control charts provide a balanced approach. Utilizing specific metrics at the local level, a district or state may learn which turf is the troublesome spot for damage(s), which lead to discussions with contractors, utilities, and local governmental agencies. Metrics, especially the metrics applied to internal contractor performance objectives, will become a key to identify exceptional or substandard service providers. Looking Forward…… As we continue to refine our damage prevention programs, we must emphasize: - Increasing the level of involvement among employees, and dedicating physical/monetary resources to damage prevention activities. - Identifying problem damage areas, high-growth or high-exposure areas. Establish an internal communication policy, cascade information routinely and monitor damage- caused activity. - ‘Courtesy stop’ participation - Establishing subject matter experts (SMEs)/contacts on legislation at all levels. Partner with Risk Management, Public Policy, Regulatory, state agencies and one-call centers. - Ensuring that facility record information provided to one-call centers is as current and accurate as possible– you may be paying for more than you think when databases aren’t updated regularly. - Migrating towards standardization of locate ticket information required. - Implementing a national referral number whereby an excavator can reach the applicable state specific one-call center directly, toll-free, by dialing those digits via cell phones or conventional means. This effort is well underway. - Maintaining a strong regional and national presence in the damage prevention arena. - Improving design, placement and visual protection of all high-profile routes. - And finally, working as a coalition with excavators, enforcement agencies and other facility owners to ensure public safety and that all buried facilities are protected.
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