The US has a very vibrant community dedicated to protecting underground infrastructure from excavation damage and the highlight of its awareness raising activities in National Safe Digging Month, held each year in April, when the Call 811 organisations in each state — the equivalent of Australia’s Dial Before You Dig bodies — get together with sponsorship from infrastructure owning organisations and others to stage a wide range of community events across the country.
National Safe Digging Month is an initiative of the Common Ground Alliance, a member-driven association of 1,700 individuals, organisations and sponsors from every facet of the underground utility industry dedicated to promoting effective damage prevention practices.
The first National Safe Digging Month was held in 2008, also in April, because that’s the month when excavation activity ramps up nationwide in the US.
The CGA’s newsletter highlights some of the creativity that went into staging awareness raising events around the country during National Safe Digging Month 2017.
Gas escapes are one thing that National Safe Digging Month are designed to prevent, which they featured prominently this year when the 811 hot air balloon took to the skies at the Oakland Athletics baseball game against the San Francisco Giants.
That was only the first of many appearances: the balloon also went aloft at other major league baseball and united soccer league games, at the Grand Prix of LongBeach, on the Las Vegas Strip, at a famous Arizona farm and at the New Orleans Jazz Fest. It also featured in a San Francisco Bay area TV news segment.
In the state of Indiana the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission worked with utility company Nipsco to stage a mock gas explosion, illustrating the damage that hitting a utility line can cause.
Nipsco reported that, in 2016, about 1,000 of its lines were hit and that, in 40 percent of incidents, those responsible had not called 811 beforehand. It also reported that most of these incidents were not caused by professional contractors.
Nipsco’s public awareness manager, Jennifer Barbour, was reported saying people installing a basketball hoop, fencing, or even a mailbox were the most common causes of damage.
The Gold Shovel Standard (GSS) also highlighted the statists on underground infrastructure damage. GSS is a non-profit organisation that provides third-party confirmation of baseline safety management systems for the protection of buried assets, and fair and transparent metrics for damage prevention.
Announcing its support for National Safe Digging Month it said: “Every six minutes an underground utility line is damaged in the US because someone decided to dig without first calling 811.”
Another report said: “Homeowners and professional excavators who fail to notify local one-call centres before digging cause approximately 30 percent of all damages, making it the top cause of these dangerous and costly incidents. This statistic jumps to 60 percent for landscaping and fence-building projects.”
Finally in this digital age no event worth its salt would be without its Facebook page, and National No Dig Month is no exception.Its Facebook page offered the chance to win an Apple Watch.
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