More than 350 industry professionals attend the 2022 Greater Chesapeake Damage Prevention Training Conference in Ocean City
Author: Matt Ruddo, One Call Concepts
For the thirteenth year, hundreds of damage prevention professionals gathered at the Ocean City Fontainebleau Resort in Ocean City, Md., for the 2022 Greater Chesapeake Damage Prevention Training Conference (GCDPTC), hosted by title sponsors Miss Utility of Delmarva and Miss Utility of Maryland/D.C.
The conference kicked off with a keynote speech from Spencer Beach, who left a lasting impression on attendees as he shared the importance of embracing simple safety measures to prevent costly mistakes, injury and loss. Breakout session topics included a behind the scenes look at the 811 Ticket Process with One Call Concepts, Inc.; a breakdown of how stakeholder groups can contribute to timelier and more efficient locates with industry experts from New York 811 and B. Frank Joy, LLC; and an interactive outdoor training demonstration presented by Chesapeake Utilities Corporation that showcased the importance of natural gas safety.
The GCDPTC honored some of the safest contractors in Maryland and Washington, D.C., for the 2021-2022 Dig Smart Awards, including: Gray & Son, Inc., Excellence Award Winner; Comer Construction, Inc., Maryland Winner; C.W. & Sons Infrastructure, Inc., Washington, D.C. Winner; and Baltimore Tree Trust, Honorable Mention Winner.
Attendees participated in networking events, including the annual cornhole and golf tournaments, as well as the increasingly popular paint and sip event. Additionally, through generous donations at the cornhole tournament and a 50/50 raffle, attendees and networking event sponsor, B. Frank Joy, LLC raised a total of $1,760 for Construction Angels, which provides assistance to families who have lost a loved one as a result of a work-related accident.
The GCDPTC’s highly-anticipated “$811 Dig for Cash” game closed out the conference during grand door prizes, making for a very memorable final day.
The GCDPTC will return to Ocean City, Md., from Oct. 24-27, 2023.
Cities and municipality's role in Right-of-Way construction management and damage prevention
Author: Josh Flud, City of Lubbock
"Is Damage Prevention a Public Safety Matter?"
I was recently at a state conference regarding damage prevention when the question was asked, "Is damage prevention a public safety matter or a public relations matter?" My first and vocal reaction was, "of course, it is a public safety matter". Anyone that has ever been or worked through a damaged utility incident knows the potential hazards of the situation. The first thing that most people react to is gas line strikes, but let's start with some of the less publicized line strikes.
Electric line strikes and the risk of connecting a wet steel drill stem with high voltage electricity is definitely a public safety concern. Not only is the danger to human life, but also damage to electric lines and transformers upstream of the strike a concern. The inconvenience is to citizens and customers due to power loss and the cost of perishable goods and workforce to repair and restore electric services.
Telecommunication: although most of the public has cell phones today, some people and most businesses still rely on landlines to conduct business. Back when landlines were copper wire in the Rights-of-Way, they could be repaired in a relatively short time frame. With the massive fiber builds the country is seeing and the time-consuming repair of splicing glass tubes, communication to emergency services could and most likely will be out for several hours, if not days. So much of the population receives emergency information by fiber in some form or fashion, not to mention the entire 911 system runs through fiber. Most businesses rely on fiber for credit card transactions, supply chain, and countless other needs, and the man-hours and equipment required to repair the fiber is expensive and time-consuming.
There is no doubt that gas line strikes are dangerous; the instant the gas line is struck, the air-fuel ratio is optimal for ignition. New polylines are prone to static electric charge and can spark when cut. When gas lines are damaged in a confined situation, for example directional boring, the gas finds an old ditch line to travel down. Cities and Municipalities used clay tile pipe in the early construction of wastewater collection systems. The joints of this type of pipe are not airtight, and the lack of soil compaction around the pipe makes the wastewater collection system highly vulnerable to natural gas infiltrating and moving up the line. Service taps create an exit point for the gas to travel up the service line and collect in structures. This is why every damaged gas line response procedure must include removing manhole lids on both sides of the strike and monitoring structures for natural gas. Gas venting into the atmosphere can travel several blocks, thus exposing citizens to all levels of explosive hazards. Evacuation of businesses and homes and the citizens' fear of the potential loss of homes and businesses is unmeasurable. Hit gas lines result in the loss of revenue to businesses due to evacuation or customers' inability to access the property due to road closures, etc. Additional challenges are encountered if a school or hospital is within the vicinity, gas line response procedures now involve local fire and police departments responding to any hazardous material release. The deployment of fire and police personnel and equipment is costly to taxpayers and ties up resources for an unknown amount of time.
All Cities and Municipalities operate water and wastewater systems in some form or another. The damage to water lines causes water outages in residential or commercial properties. Water outages are inconvenient and potentially hazardous to customers when home health care is involved. Potable water contains state-regulated chlorine levels. Although not harmful to humans, chlorine kills bacteria and algae. When chlorinated water flows into rivers or lakes, the chlorine kills algae changing the oxygen levels or causing a rapid water temperature change resulting in a fish kill. Texas Parks and Wildlife investigates anytime there is harm to wildlife, often resulting in state fines to the municipality. Wastewater line damages result in a TCEQ fine, expensive cleanup, and mitigation of the area. Cities and Municipalities have additional expenses other than utility damages. The poor or substandard repair of Rights-of-Way, improper compaction under roadways, damage to private and public property, and use of substandard material to restore roadways all come at a cost to those cities and/or municipalities.
Not only is damage prevention a public safety matter, but it is also a public financial matter. That is why cities and municipalities should take a leading role in damage prevention. Too often, cities and municipalities wait for the state to take the lead in a particular problem. Perhaps damage prevention should start with the city and municipality, which leaves its taxpayers and citizens to bear the cost of damages to infrastructure and utilities. The base cause of the damage could be better identified and handled at the local level. Considering infrastructure as an industry, the involved parties are the franchise owner, franchise contractor, franchise locators, and the city or municipality's Right-of-Way. Out of the entities involved, the city or municipality is the only party with regulatory authority entrusted by the citizens with tax dollars. The State of Texas has given cities and municipalities a lot of power to manage their Rights-of-Way. Cities and municipalities should utilize their authority to reduce damages within their jurisdiction. Contractors on and near roadways pose a danger itself; insurance and traffic control verification, equipment, and material stored overnight must all be done with the traveling public in mind.
"Creating an Ordinance"
In March of 2022, the City of Lubbock passed an Infrastructure Ordinance that significantly focused on reducing damages of all types. When writing the Ordinance, the Industry Best Practices and Standards, results of research of damages to city infrastructure, investigation of individual line strikes were considered. The Ordinance was written based on accountability for failure to adhere to best practices, not regulating means and methods. Techniques like white lining the excavation area, potholing utilizing hydro excavation, locating tickets attached to permits, and enforcing the "safe zone" were incorporated into the Ordinance to help reduce utility damages. Right-of-Way Roadway restoration, materials, and testing are all integrated within the City of Lubbock Engineering Minimum Design Standards and Specification and codified by an Ordinance. All the ordinances and technology cannot replace staffing in the field, but we all are dealing with staffing shortages.
"Building an Inspection Team"
When the City of Lubbock took an active role in Right-of-Way construction management and damage prevention, the biggest obstacle was staffing to inspect the work and enforce the Ordinance. Creating and staffing a new Right-of-Way inspection team without the ability to add additional staff was the first major obstacle. A few years prior, the City of Lubbock utility locators had been transferred to the Engineering Inspection Services Department, and at that time, we started standardizing all locate procedures, updating equipment, and training. We had reduced our at-fault line strikes tremendously, but still had trouble retaining staff due to the pay. We took the three locators and one junior inspector and reclassified them into the Right-of-Way Inspector/Locator team. This combination has proven very successful. Once locates are made, the same individual stays with the contractor and conducts inspections and ordinance enforcement. Once created, the inspection team needed a supervisor, and we looked to the Right-of-Way Construction Coordinator for that role. That position was a natural fit since they were already issuing the permit to franchise utility contractors, and the Inspection team would inspect and enforce the Ordinance.
"Investigating and Educating"
After writing the Ordinance, incorporating Standards and Specifications, and creating an inspection and enforcement team, the results were not what I expected. Instead of a decrease in line strikes, we saw a huge spike! My first reaction was, did we go too far? Have we put so much on the contractor for Right-of-Way restoration that they are getting in a bigger hurry during the excavation and installation phase of the job? What was the actual cause of the line strikes? To answer the three questions, I had to respond to every line strike when it happened. I learned two main reasons: The first was inaccurate locates, and the second was the contractor stopping just short of successfully locating the line. After responding to all the line strikes for eight months, I found that 53% of them were caused by the contractor not knowing what to look for when hydro-excavating or stopping before spotting the utility. With that information, we started three different conversations. First, with the franchise utilities stressing the importance of accurate locating; we could not put all the pressure on the contractors without utility owners doing their part to provide accurate and timely locates. We, as utility owners, set out to standardize how we marked our utility, putting the size and type of utility on every line. That way, when the contractor daylights a utility, they know what they are looking for; I found that we were asking contractors to go out and find something but weren't giving them the information they needed.
It has not been enough time to determine the exact results of our efforts regarding line strikes; however, over the past 10 months, we saw a spike in early spring and a sharp reduction in line strikes since mid-summer. We are still tracking every line strike to review our results and better judge the program's effectiveness. We can demonstrate two specific reductions: reduced "at fault" line strikes to City of Lubbock utilities and reduced maintenance cost in repairs to Rights-of-Way.