Monthly Update - April 2021

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Join us online for CGA Conference Preview happening April 27 & 28    

Author: Sarah Magruder Lyle, CGA President and CEO

I am very much looking forward to seeing all of you virtually Tuesday, April 27 and Wednesday, April 28 during the virtual Conference Preview of the 2021 CGA Conference & Expo, which will be taking place in-person on Oct. 12-15 in Orlando! During this online event, CGA will give an overview of the conference, as well as showcase the wealth of educational and networking opportunities planned for this October, including:

  • Highlights from the more than 50 educational sessions scheduled for the conference, including a Session Preview for each of CGA’s five educational tracks: Innovation; Stakeholder Engagement & Communication; Damage Prevention Process; Workplace Performance & Culture; and Legislative & Regulatory Outlook – Industry Impacts.
  • Roundtable discussion on the future of the industry from the Next Practices Advisory Committee.
  • Multiple interactive networking opportunities to build connections with industry professionals, exhibitors and expert session presenters.
  • And of course, the chance to win prizes!

Participation in the Conference Preview is FREE and open to all damage prevention industry stakeholders. Attendees can register for the event on Socio®, CGA’s online event-app conference partner. You can download the Socio® app via the Apple Store® or Google Play®, as well as participate via the web app on your desktop. For questions, please contact conference@commongroundalliance.com. We look forward to seeing you online later this month and in-person in Orlando this October!

New member spotlight: Stake Center Locating     

Author: Khrysanne Kerr, VP of Marketing and Outreach  

Stake Center Locating, Inc. is a provider of utility locating services operating in 48 states across the country. The company’s more than 900 employees conduct over 750,000 locates per month.

Although Stake Center Locating is a big company, they say they operate with a small company service

mentality—relationships and collaboration are at the heart of how they do business. Safety is woven into the culture and nature of the company, from the CEO to the newest hire.

Many of the senior and executive leaders at Stake Center Locating have been locators in the field, so they understand what a day in the life of a locator is like. They say this experience gives them intimate knowledge of the challenges and hazards of the job from the moment a locator starts the truck in the morning to calling it quits at the end of the day. The company believes that there is no other option than to strive for zero incidents, and that their real-world, boots-on-the-ground experience helps prevent injuries and damages before they happen.

The amount of congestion underground has increased significantly with the growth of infrastructure. Decades ago, an interruption in communications service was an inconvenience. With the amount of data being processed today, an interruption can be critical to homes and businesses, making the need for accuracy and reliability more important than ever.

The 2021 CGA Conference & Expo will provide a unique forum to learn and share insights, knowledge and experience that can help reduce damages across the industry. It is a place for peers to come together to work collaboratively to develop best practices for damage control. Stake Center Locating is proud to be a major sponsor of this year’s conference, because when it comes to damage prevention, we know there is a lot at stake.

Click here to register for the damage prevention’s premier event of the year scheduled for Oct. 12-15 in-person in Orlando. 

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Arizona 811 takes national stage as sponsor of NASCAR Xfinity Series race

Arizona 811 was the proud title sponsor of the NASCAR Xfinity Series’ Call 811 Before You Dig 200 at the Phoenix Raceway in Arizona last month. The nationally televised race brought significant exposure to safe digging awareness in the stands and across the country, helping educate the public about the importance of calling 811 prior to starting any digging projects – big or small.

Sandra Holmes, Executive Director of Arizona 811, had the exciting opportunity of waving the green flag to start the race. Holmes along with Alejandra Ocano-Gonzalez, Education & Awareness Manager of Arizona 811, and Brice Box, Chairperson for the Education & Awareness Committee of Arizona’s Damage Prevention Partnership, were also featured in the Grand Marshall video prior to the race.

Arizona 811 held several social media contests for the opportunity for followers to win tickets to the race. They also hosted a livestream during the race to talk about 811 and damage prevention.

NASCAR Xfinity Series defending champion Austin Cindric took the checkered flag after 200 laps, and was presented with a specially designed trophy featuring the Arizona 811 logo, shovel and utility flag markers. Click here to watch a race recap on the Arizona 811 Facebook page.

A new age in damage prevention: the NY811 virtual reality excavator simulator (VR-X SIM)

In damage prevention, we often find ourselves reactive instead of proactive when trying to determine the root causes of damages and how to prevent them in the future. New York 811 (NY811) is innovating a new way to assess the real-world scenarios that lead to damages with its groundbreaking and innovative new NY811 Mobile Virtual Reality Excavator Simulator (VR-X SIM), which was unveiled last month during a CGA webinar.

The road to innovation

By leveraging virtual reality (VR) simulations completed by actual excavators, NY811’s VR-X SIM (created in collaboration with IPEG) is the first damage prevention technology to protect critical underground infrastructure by predicting and preventing utility strikes, and the specific decisions and errors that cause them.

Inspired by the aviation industry’s flight simulators, New York 811 Executive Director Roger Sampson led the concepting of the VR-X SIM as a powerful tool for creating endless variations of real-world situations and recording excavator responses. Static environments like “Safety Towns” and other existing excavator training simulators can capture and train excavators against several common scenarios, but the VR-X SIM takes damage prevention to a completely new level with its ability to run excavators through hyper-realistic, complex and endlessly customizable simulations. Importantly, the VR-X SIM is not intended only as a training tool, but instead to help NY811 and the industry at large get a much clearer picture of the exact inflection point at which damages occur.

“Aviation simulators are not designed to teach pilots how to do the basics of take-off, landing and flying – they’re intended to throw pilots into unpredictable scenarios and evaluate how their training has prepared them for the unexpected,” said Sampson. “That’s the model we are following with New York 811’s VR-X SIM. There are plenty of resources to train excavators on the basics, but VR-X SIM will capture the variability of the real world and include a range of out-of-the-box scenarios that occur daily on jobsites but which you won’t find in a standard excavator training.”

Powerful technology and realistic simulations

Housed in a 34-foot custom Winnebago, the VR-X simulator allows one excavator and one spotter to be completely immersed in real-life excavation scenarios using virtual reality equipment, including goggles, gloves and a backhoe cab with all of the working functionalities you would find on a jobsite. Before beginning the excavation portion of the simulation, participants will walk through the notification and confirmation steps of the safe digging process.

With cutting-edge 4D technology and design, participants will not only see and hear what is going on around them but will also experience the smell and feel of any damages that occur, including variable feedback from the bucket based on soil conditions, the shake of an explosion, gas odors and flashes of light when a utility is hit.

As experienced excavators move through the scenarios, using VR eye tracking software, they are scored on every movement and decision they make on the jobsite. Once the job is complete, they will be given their score along with feedback and improvements they can make to avoid damages in the future.

Data to move the industry forward

The quantifiable and objective data that is gathered through the simulations will give new insight into root causes of utility damages that can be shared on a national level. NY811 worked with UTTO to develop a scorable system that would take the thousands of detailed data points gathered through each simulation run and translate them into understandable, quantifiable data on when and why damages occur.

“So much of the current state of damage prevention investigations and even DIRT data submissions comes down to liability – it’s very focused on who can be held responsible through the lenses of federal and/or state laws,” said Sampson. “The only way to truly move the industry forward and reverse the trend of rising damages is to get data on the actual root causes of damages – the decisions made and actions taken in the field – instead of who can be held legally liable. Our VR-X SIM is designed to reveal true root causes and shed light on where in the process things are going wrong, so we can create meaningful trainings and interventions that predict and prevent damages.”

During the virtual unveiling NY811 will take attendees inside the simulator to learn more about the technology used and data obtained from excavators participating in these real-life scenarios. As a first of its kind simulator, this is an opportunity you won’t want to miss.

Member Tools & Resources Feature Icon

National Safe Digging Month 2021 is here!  

Author: Khrysanne Kerr, VP of Marketing and Outreach  

April 1st marked the start of National Safe Digging Month (NSDM)! With nearly 2 in 5 homeowners planning to dig without calling 811 (according to CGA’s 2021 omnibus study), it is critical that we use NSDM to promote the safe digging message. CGA’s newly updated NSDM toolkit for members includes social media messages and infographics, guidelines for remote media interviews and proclamations, and materials for kids.

The toolkit also contains resources to share the 2021 results of CGA’s annual omnibus national survey, which provides a picture of homeowners’ plans to dig for home improvement projects this year, their experiences with utility service interruptions during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the pandemic’s impact on their digging habits. The survey found that 19.5 million Americans plan to dig for home improvement projects this year. Now more than ever is a great time to remind the public to always call 811 beforehand to keep their communities safe and connected. Click here to download the omnibus data sheet, press release and infographics to incorporate this impactful data in your NSDM efforts.

What does your organization have planned for NSDM this year? Share your activities, proclamations, partnerships and social media campaigns with damage prevention industry peers on CGA's Engage platform.

New Best Practices approved by CGA’s Best Practices Committee

Author: Erika Lee, CGA Vice President

The Best Practices Committee recently approved three practice proposals submitted by the Committee’s TR 2019-02, Electronic RFID Markers task team. The new practice wording will include:

  • NEW: 2-19, Underground Electronic Utility Markers
  • NEW: 6-17, As-Built Mapping of Underground Electronic Utility Markers
  • MODIFIED: Addition to Appendix B, Guideline for Underground Electronic Utility Marker Technology.

The new practices will be posted to the Best Practices online version and will published in CGA’s Best Practices 18.0 coming out later this spring. Thank you to task team chair Dennis Jarnecke and the TR 2019-02 task team for all your hard work on these proposals.   

Click to view the approved wording.

In addition, CGA has created the following new infographics focusing on some of our most accessed practices:

  • BP 2-1: Plat Designation of Existing Underground Facilities
  • BP 3-14: Meetings Between Excavator and Facility Operator
  • BP 4-1: Available Records
  • BP 4-2: Corrections and Updates

We hope you find these infographics helpful when sharing the Best Practices on social media, the damage prevention portion of your organization’s website and in other print or digital communications. Over time, we will continue to add new infographics to the Best Practices toolkit focusing on specific practices. Click here to download now.  

To submit new Best Practice proposals or revisions to existing Best Practices, click here. For questions or for additional information on the Best Practices, please contact Erika Lee at erikaa@commongroundalliance.com.

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Watch new Dashboard video

Author: Steve Blaney, DIRT Program Manager

CGA recently created a new tutorial video for navigating the DIRT Interactive Dashboard, where users can view DIRT data from previous years and filter the information across multiple fields – including region, stakeholder group, time of year, equipment type and more – to analyze the data most relevant to an organization or stakeholder group.

The new tutorial video gives an overview of the DIRT Explorer, which allows users to apply a range of filters to damage data. Watch the video on CGA’s website to learn more about using the Interactive Dashboard to visualize unique insights from damage data. Additional DIRT videos will be released throughout the year, so stay tuned!

For questions, please contact Steve Blaney at stevenb@commongroundalliance.com

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CGA hosts virtual working committee meetings

Author: Khrysanne Kerr, VP of Marketing and Outreach

CGA hosted members during virtual working committee meetings on March 2-4. Members were also invited to daily general sessions on the latest important industry topics, including exciting new initiatives and technology impacting our industry. On day one, the Next Practices Advisory Committee and CGA leadership presented findings from the newly published Next Practices Report to the Industry. On day two, members got an exclusive virtual tour of New York 811’s VR-X-SIM Mobile, a state-of-the-art training simulator for excavators. On the third and final day, the California Geographic Information Association gave an overview of GIS technology and answered common questions about using GIS in damage prevention. If you were unable to attend the general sessions, click here to watch the videos on the CGA website.

CGA would like to thank the committee co-chairs, webinar presenters and attendees for participating in such informative and productive meetings. We look forward to seeing everyone during the virtual CGA Conference Preview on April 27 & 28!

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