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Organizational

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Five Steps in Locating a Utility Facility
Derrick Avery
Comm/215
3 July 2010
Don Hull

Five Steps in Locating a Utility Facility
You are ready for the big game. The wife and children are at the mall, a fresh, steaming pizza on the table, and the Dallas Cowboys are one win a way from playing in the Super Bowl. You have patiently made it through the pregame show and the endless commercials. The moment you have waited for is here, the big game. The kicker lines up, signals he is ready, and charges to kick the ball to start the game. Just as the kicker makes contact, the television screen goes blank. You rush outside to investigate and the only thing that catches your eye is your neighbor digging postholes for a privacy fence. Unknown to your neighbor, he just cut your cable service line. A scenario like this occurs each day in America. It may not happen exactly like this, but loss of utilities because of not knowing what lies buried underground is a annoying and possibly serious problem. Calling a utility locator before digging can save frustration, money, and possibly lives. In this paper I will address the five steps a utility locator uses to indentify where underground facilities lie. These steps include: Evaluate the Locate, Identify High-Profile Utilities, Prepare for the Locate, Perform the Locate, and Document the Locate. Utility Locators have a tremendous amount of responsibility and it is very important the make a game plan before each locate.
Evaluate the Locate
A locator receives a locate ticket from the One Call center. One Call centers receive all dig requests and alerts utility companies that a dig will take place. In almost every state, law requires a contractor to call a One Call center at least 48 hours before excavation starts (Kolera & Bernold, 2006). Contractors and homeowners can request a locate ticket by calling 811 and it is a free service. The 811 designator was a result of the 2002 Pipeline Safety Improvement Act (“‘811’ Designated For Pipeline Protection,” 2005). The locator evaluates what the ticket calls for and the area the excavation covers. The locator will look at prints and above ground markers to develop a mental map of the property and of what lies beneath the property. Utility companies install above ground markers to show the proximity of buried cables or gas lines. Locators make a mental map of area to reduce the chance of missing a utility line. They must pay special attention to lines and cables that serve a high population or are very expensive to repair. Because of this, identifying high profile services has a step dedicated to it.
Indentify High-Profile Facilities
As mentioned because of their importance, high profile facilities require special attention. Fiber-optic cables, telephone cables 600 pair or larger, and gas mains larger than six inches in diameter, and gas mains with more than 60 psi of pressure are considered high profile. Damage to these facilities could endanger lives, disrupt utilities to a large population, or cause significant revenue loss. Locators must read each print for each utility and determine if a high-profile facility exists. If one exists, the locator must call his or her supervisor and have the supervisor double-check their locate marks. Incorrectly marking a high-profile line can cost a locator their job, and in the worst-case scenario, cost them their lives.
Prepare for the Locate
In this step, locators determine what tools and equipment needed to perform the job successfully. Time management will increase productivity. Locating company’s top priority is accurate marking, but productivity keeps them in business. If a locator has to run back to his or her truck several times, it adds significantly to the time required to locate the property accurately. Gathering all the tools and equipment necessary before they start will also cut out distractions and will reduce errors for forgetting to mark facilities. Preparation for the job is necessary for optimal performance.

Performing the Locate
In performing the locate job, locators identify, pinpoint, and mark underground facilities. Locators hook a transmitter to an access point, which is either a tracer wire or metallic sheath of a facility. The transmitter applies a low voltage, alternating current on the desired facility. The alternating current produces an electro-magnetic field on the wire or sheath. Locators use a receiver that detects the electro-magnetic field and pinpoints the facility’s location. If there are several facilities placed next to each other, magnetic fields can transfer over onto them and give a false reading to the receiver. Patience, skill, and attention-to-detail play a very important role when this happens. Locators must take current readings and depth measurements to pinpoint facilities. On some occasions, it is impossible to pinpoint location, it is then necessary to dig and uncover the line. It may seem that all work is completed, but it is not. Verifying and documenting of all work completed is one the most important aspects of the job.
Verify and Document the Locate
The last step in the locate process most often takes the longest to complete. The locator reviews the prints to verify that he or she marked all facilities in the area. Then the locator has to document all facilities marked, prints used, and access points used. It is a requirement that 11 photographs of each job are taken. Some of the required photographs include address of locate, access points used, safety set-up, and all ground marks placed. The locator electronically attaches photographs to the ticket on a laptop computer. The locator also documents conversations with contractors or homeowners. Documentation and photographs will be the locator’s and the locating company’s primary defense if damage to a facility occurs. For the locator, it may save his or her job, for the company, it may help them win a lawsuit. This step may take the longest, but it is worth the time and effort.

Conclusion
The public has no idea of the web of facilities buried underground. Avoiding damages can be as simple as dialing 811 and requesting a locate job. Locating facilities for a locator involve making a mental map of the property to avoid errors and mistakes. Identifying high-profile facilities can help prevent revenue loss, interruption of services to a large population, and possibly save lives by identifying underground hazards. To keep productivity up and to minimize distractions, locators need to prepare for the job. Performing the job, using electro-magnetic location, can require a locator with patience, skill, and attention-to-detail to pinpoint facilities. Verifying and documenting all work completed may take the longest to complete, but it just may save the locators job and help the locating company win a lawsuit should a facility damage occur. The importance of a locator’s job is often over-looked, but the peace of mind a locator receives knowing that he or she is preventing any damage and protecting the public is worth the hard work.

References
‘811’ Designated For Pipeline Protection. (2005). Civil Engineering, (), . Retrieved from http://web.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.apollolibrary.com/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=7&hid=111&sid=0a9ec6cb-01ef-4f7e-85da-238c3746e610%40sessionmgr113

Kolera, B. T., & Bernold, L. E. (2006). Intelligent Utility Locating Tool for Excavators. Intelligent Utility Locating Tool for Excavators, (), . Retrieved from http://web.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.apollolibrary.com/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=6&hid=111&sid=a8bc5918-66c2-44cc-9eb6-9b0cb6146f55%40sessionmgr110

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