‘Call before you dig…’

Residents cautioned on danger of underground hazards

By John Rech news@theeveningtimes.com

They take more phone calls a day than the big man on campus gets text messages. Mike Gowen with Arkansas One Call told local emergency planners that about 1,500 callers per day report their plans to dig. These calls dispatch workers to mark the area for utilities before the excavation starts. Gowen explained the process and the important safety considerations in reporting plans to dig at the January meeting of the Crittenden County LEPC. One Call is an underground utility notification service reached by dialing 811 from anywhere in the country. “We have 20 customer service reps answering the phones,” said Gowen. “We notify ATT, Centerpoint, the local electric or water company. Every utility in the state is required to be part of Arkansas One Call.” 42 percent of damages are caused by people without a valid locate request. Many people assume that utilities are buried two feet but erosion over time changes the lay of the land and the depth of pipes. Buried utilities can impact farmers doing land leveling. Having under ground hazards properly marked reduces repair expenses, work stoppage time, and prevents utility and phone service interruptions. So everyone, whether homeowner or contractor should call before they dig even is its with a shovel. “How many would call before you plant a tree in your yard,” asked Gowen. Everybody should. For example, the top six calls to us people are putting fiber. That tells us the communication industry is really growing. A few months ago a fiber cable was cut in New York and it interrupted phone service in Conway. That could effect 911 services or credit card transactions at a store.” The Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department enjoys reduced operating costs because of One Call. “A couple of years ago they were looking for a way to reduce damages on their right of ways,” said Gowen, “and the utility companies were billing them. They were paying and knew they had to do something to reduce damages.” Gowen announced a new safety innovation to the emergency planners. Gas line sleeves with a pressure sensitive valve shut off gas flow in broken lines. Rental gas customers can expect retrofit of the valve according to Gowen who had one on display for the group. “Centerpoint Energy now puts excess flow valves on all their new residential services,” said Gowen. “It fits between the mainline and the house meter. In the event of a leak its shuts the line down, it won’t blow. They’ve been doing it for four years and have a lot of them on.”

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