Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Communication and compliance among all stakeholder's is crucial in ensuring public safety and damage prevention. The following article from the CGA Sept. 2006 Newsletter highlights current efforts in the promoting the effort of effective communication and compliance among all industry stakeholders.

New Best Practices
Deal With Emergency
Coordination and Unidentified Lines

Two new best practices—one covering emergency
coordination and the other dealing with previously
unidentified lines—have been approved by the Best
Practices Committee and subsequently by the CGA
Board of Directors on September 8, 2006.
All approved new practices and practice modifications
will be included in Best Practices Version 4.0 that
will be finalized and published in February 2007.

The purpose of one proposal, based upon TR
2005-02, is to identify how operators of underground
facilities coordinate emergency response with adjacent
facility owners. The committee was charged with
revising the statement that “emergency response planning
requirement in the pipeline safety regulations
to include coordination with electric and other utilities
that may need to respond to a pipeline emergency.”
The committee noted that that there are many
stakeholders involved during emergency situations,
including excavators, locators, owner/operators, first
responders, One Call Centers, and the general public.
Accordingly, the committee decided that emergency
planning and response should be coordinated with
all stakeholders.

The committee’s second proposal, based on TR
2004-04, deals with the identification of pipelines,
wires, conduits, and other underground structures that
have not been formally identified through normal
locating procedures.

To facilitate damage prevention, the committee
declared, One Call Centers should have an established
procedure that is implemented when an excavator calls
and reports an unidentified facility. The action could
be as simple as re-notifying all affected facility operators
in the absence of any other specified requirement
of state or local law.

The Best Practices are a living document that under
goes regular review to assure that the practices listed is
indeed the industry’s accepted best. The committee is
made up of members from all stakeholders that have a
role in the protection of life and property.
Every single stakeholder group holds veto power
over any introduced practice. The 100-percentage
consensus rule is often a challenge for the Best Practices
Committee. However, the end result is a fair and
balanced statement that all groups agree represents the industry’s best practices.

For Further information regarding CGA Best Practices visit

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Damage Reporting - Is It All in the Details?

The article below was posted on the Consolidated Utility Services, Inc. Blog. and it brings to question what level of detailed reporting parameters would best serve the user's of CGA's DIRT - Damages Reporting Tool.

One of the biggest hurdles to Damage Reporting nationwide is the consistency of the reported data. The final statistics are only as good as the numbers reported. DIRT provides an excellent virtual platform that allows broad-ranged damage reporting to be easily accessable to all stakeholders. This platform is a valuable resource for One Call centers to utilize in their qwest for full compliance of damage reporting among the One Call members.

However, each industry/stakeholder is unique thus resulting in a wide array of reporting requirements from the very broad, compliance centered to very specific information from an individual incident.

Based on the article below, underground locating companies and similar industries follow a very detailed, specific model when reporting damages. Would incorporating a similar model into the DIRT reporting tool benefit the users by providing more detailed data on damages or would it hinder current efforts towards compliance by making the reporting function too labor intense?

Tracking Utility Damages

Over the years there seems to be more awareness in the underground utility locating industry on the root cause of why facilities get damaged. Contractors, utilities and locating companies are more proactive in getting down to the bare bones of why a damage occurred. The Common Ground Alliance (CGA) has developed a tool to help everyone involved with protecting underground facilities and track why damages are occurring. This tool is what they call DIRT. It has been in use for a couple of years and is gaining momentum on it's use. The information they collect gets stripped of any identity markers so that no one can identify who was involved in the utility damages. The purpose of DIRT is to find trends throughout the US and Canada, report on the trends on an annual basis and create awareness on how to minimize facility damages. Users that submit information to DIRT may use a variety of reporting tools to help track trends within their own company as well. The tools are available to the user at no charge and can be accessed at anytime. The information the user submits for it's own internal tracking is not stripped of any identity markers but is only visible to the user and whomever they identify within the company. Only when the DIRT report is published for all to see are the identity markers removed. For more detailed information on the CGA DIRT Report visit

Consolidated Utility Services, INC (CUS) is a supporter of CGA and the DIRT Report. CUS has an objective to protect utilities by putting the best locating technicians out in the field to find these facilities. Because of that, our root cause analysis is much more in depth then what the DIRT report offers, simply because we want to pinpoint exactly where our weaknesses are within every region, within every supervisor's group, for every employee and give them the training needed to improve on those weaknesses. For example the DIRT Report offers a choice of 20 reasons why a facility damage occurred, which is sufficient when looking for a broad range of trends across North America. CUS however looks at 70 different reasons within 10 categories on why the facility was damaged. This is key in helping CUS pinpoint the exact reasons why utility damages are occurring and focus valuable training resources on the individuals and/or groups that need it. As more utilities get buried daily, more facilities become at risk. It is vital we give our locating technicians every tool, opportunity and training to accurately find those buried lines. Root cause analysis is a great tool that opens the door for fast, factual and precise information that can help reduce damages. The CGA and CUS have both recognized that.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Nebraska Regional CGA Underway!

The first Nebraska Regional Common Ground Alliance meeting was held Wednesday, October 18 at the Regency Lodge in Omaha.

An overview of the Common Ground Alliance and Regional Partnerships was presented by Perly Schoville and Mike Shallow with Union Pacific, Dan Maschka with Northern Natural Gas and Harold Winnie from the Department of Transportation, Kansas City.

Following the presentations, the floor was opened up to all present for a round-table discussion focusing upon regional and industry issues involving underground facilities. From these discussions, specific areas of focus were identified as was the need to further pursue an alliance on a regional basis.

Approximately 35 individuals from across the state attended the meeting. Industries represented included: Union Pacific Railroad, Nebraska Department of Roads, Department of Transportation, Northern Natural Gas, NEBCON, Inc., General Excavating, Kinder Morgan, OPPD, City of Omaha, Glenwood Telephone, ELM Locating, Nebraska State Fire Marshal’s Office, K2 Construction, Aquila, Enterprise Products, Nebraska City Utilities and M.U.D. The event was hosted by Consolidated Utility Services Inc./Nebraska Digger’s Hotline.

The next Regional CGA meeting will be held in Lincoln during the week of November 27. This meeting will be hosted by Jeff Stoolman with Enterprise Products. The meeting is open to anyone interested in participating in the Common Ground Alliance. For further information regarding the Nebraska Regional CGA, please contact Susan Griess at 402-778-3024 -

The Common Ground Alliance is a National Organization with the mission to ensure public safety, environmental protection, and integration of services by promoting effective damage prevention practices.

If you would like further information regarding the Common Ground Alliance, please visit their website at

Friday, October 13, 2006

Mash Ups and One Call

Mash Ups and One Call
Every one-call center has an amalgamated GIS/work order management system that it uses to receive and transmit locate requests. AGTI’s IRTH platform is an industry leader, but there are a number of others (OCC’s Prism, Norfield, TelDig come to mind immediately) that have their fans.
These systems require a lot of care and feeding. Core GIS base maps, updated utility records and tolerance zones, heavy hardware investments and 24/7/365 call center staffs to name a few elements. And all of that investment results in…a static text based work order that someone has to interpret and which only references the pertinent utility and GIS data required to support the overall damage prevention effort, and effort which is as dynamic and 3-D an environment as you can get without involving a UN peace-keeping force.
Is there a better way?
The gentleman who submitted this note and the staff of Direction Magazine have some interesting and ambitious ideas.
Bob Gaspirc, OLS, CLS, OLIP, WES-Tech Services, Ontario, CanadaNotes from undergroundI would like:
· Firm and clear data standards that describe the objects to be collected and why they need to be collected.
· Harmonization of best business practices focused on underground infrastructure damage prevention
· More frequent "one-call" services to locate and designate the existence of utilities during all phases, (from permitting , design, construction and as-built)
· Technologies and tools that enable all underground facilities to be locatable. New cheaper technologies and methodologies are required to ensure that the presence and type of underground facilities are readily locatable, and may be identified through such devices such as tonable pipes, cables, tracer wire, locator balls etc...AND perhaps legislation, or city by-laws that may include permanent above and or below ground markers.
· Technologies that would be used by contractors to mark out the as-laid, as-construct, and as-found utilities.
I would like to see the further development of technologies such as hand-held units that measure, at the station, laser distance range to "reflector less" points on an exposed utility, built in compass, built in inclinometer, and oh yeah, at least a 3 megapixel embedded camera with a display screen on which standard pull-down menus can be easily used by backhoe operators, inspectors, or construction supervisors to identify the object, type, and location under the ground "¦ all for under "¦ $5,000. (full article with editorial opinions and predictions from the Direction staff)
Is it available today? Maybe. The next link provides some IT strategy and technical perspective on the current state of the emerging public domain GIS toolset and the yin to its yang, location-based services.
“Why CIOs need to know about Ajax and mash-ups”,39024673,39161297,00.htm
Too techie? Okay, here’s a city planner (okay, a California-based city planning student, but still) who is talking about the same stuff in words that don’t require translation by your My Space obsessed teenager.
‘Mash-Ups’ Will Revolutionize How Planners and Citizens View City Planning’

Are AGTI and the other one-call system vendors working on this stuff? I don’t know. Should they be? Absolutely, if they are interested in truly developing and supporting a process that everyone in the utility service industry can use, understand and afford…and not locking people into licensing and support for their specific platforms.