Call 811 Before You Dig

Posted on August 20, 2012. Filed under: Company Operations, Electric Safety, Natural Gas Safety, Safety, Uncategorized | Tags: , , |

Due to a significant increase in damage to underground natural gas and electric lines, we are encouraging weekend building and landscaping warriors to increase their diligence to working safely.

“We’re asking homeowners to become safe digging partners, making sure to call MISS DIG at 811 at least three days before digging so underground utilities like natural gas, electric, cable and telephone lines can be marked.  Calling 811 free of charge is a simple way to avoid serious consequences like unintended utility interruptions, costly repairs and even injuries,” said Dirk Dunham, damage prevention lead.

Michigan law requires a call to MISS DIG/811 prior to using any power excavating equipment, but homeowners are encouraged to call before any excavation project begins.  The call is free, and staking can also be requested by visiting www.missdig.org.

Through July, underground damages caused specifically by homeowners increased by 46 incidents – or 28 percent, to a total of 209 through July 2012 vs. 163 in 2011.

Statewide all damages attributed to homeowners and excavators rose 21 percent from 676 damages during the same time through July, 2011 to 819 in 2012.  Homeowner damages were attributed to two main reasons:

  • failure to call MISS DIG or 811 at least three working days prior to digging so utilities could be marked with flags and/or paint before projects began
  • proper hand digging tools were not used to expose underground lines before using power equipment when working near underground lines.

Common projects underway when damages occurred included setting fence or mailbox posts, planting trees and landscaping, and installing decks.

While homeowner damages have increased statewide, three areas have seen the biggest spike in damages including:

  • Flint area, 34 damages through July vs. 24 through July, 2011, a 42 percent increase
  • Lansing area, 13 damages through July vs. 7 through July, 2011, an 86 percent increase
  • Pontiac area, 26 damages through July vs. 14 through July, 2011, an 86 percent increase

Remember, it only takes 1 phone call, 3 days before digging to ensure a safe and successful project!

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( Comments Off )

Day of Ballpark Fun on Aug. 11 (8/11) to Support Safe Digging

Posted on August 10, 2012. Filed under: Events, Safety, Uncategorized | Tags: , , |

August 11 serves as an excellent reminder for Michigan residents, contractors, do-it-yourselfers
and farmers to always call 811 at least three business days before beginning any digging projects.  Dialing 811 in Michigan connects to MISS DIG, Michigan’s one-call center.  Utilities then send locators to the digging site to mark the approximate locations of underground lines with flags, spray paint or both.

An event to promote safe digging and calling 811 will be held Saturday evening, August 11 (8/11) at the West Michigan Whitecaps baseball game in Comstock Park, 4500 West River Drive. MISS DIG System, Inc., Consumers Energy, DTE Energy and SEMCO Energy are sponsoring the event. The group is part of an 811 coalition that works to increase awareness of safe digging through education and events.

The event is being supported by a group of more than 170 children and adults  representing the Salvation Army – Western Michigan/Northern Indiana and will feature the community’s youth of all ages who will don bright Call 811 t-shirts and form a huge, human 8-1-1 on the field at about 5:15 p.m. prior to the game.  Youth groups will come from the Fulton Heights Committee Center and the Kroc Corps Community Center. A Salvation Army youth representative will also throw out the ceremonial first pitch.

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( Comments Off )

Michigan Legislature Celebrates April as Safe Digging Month

Posted on April 19, 2012. Filed under: Safety | Tags: , , , , , |

Garrick Rochow, vice president of energy delivery, speaks on the Capitol steps in Lansing as part of the Dig Safely in Michigan event. Sen. Mike Nofs, R-Battle Creek/Jackson, introduced legislation to incorporate best practices into Public Act 53, the MISS DIG Act.

Surrounded by colorful flags used to mark underground utilities, legislators, other state officials, MISS DIG, Inc., utility and pipeline companies today marked April as Safe Digging Month in Michigan with several legislative proclamations on the Capitol steps.

Legislation was also introduced by Sen. Mike Nofs (R-Battle Creek) to update the “MISS DIG Act” or 1974 PA 53 to incorporate excavation and notification best practices that have been tested in Michigan over the past several years and provide for oversight by the Michigan Public Service Commission. If approved, it will mark the first time PA53 has been modified since its inception in 1974.

“These changes to Act 53 are important to provide more safeguards and clarity of the process for excavators, municipalities and utilities as well as the general public,” said Nofs.

Some of the improvements to increase the effectiveness of Act 53 include requiring faster response times when additional assistance is needed for locating underground facilities; providing for an “all clear” positive response by utilities in the area; defining clear limits regarding the use of power excavation equipment versus hand digging; and including MPSC oversight and possible penalties for violations of the act.  The revisions also recognize the voluntary use of “white lining” to mark utility facilities for site planning purposes in advance of excavation.    

Bruce Campbell, executive director of MISS DIG System, Inc. agreed with Nofs.  “As a partner organization of damage prevention professionals, MISS DIG supports the enhancements being introduced today because the goal is to ensure everyone calls 811 then follows accepted best digging practices.”

Utility and state officials were present to share their damage prevention support. In addition, Marco’s Pizza, an 811 partner, offered refreshments and is offering large pizzas for $8.11 on Mondays during April to celebrate National Safe Digging Month.

The 811 partnership between the Michigan legislature and Public Service Commission along with MISS DIG and utilities such as Consumers Energy, DTE Energy, SEMCO Energy and Wolverine Pipeline aims to raise awareness among residents and excavators about the importance of calling 811 before digging.  The ultimate goal is to eliminate dig-in utility damages in Michigan and prevent serious injuries, property damage and loss of service that can result from contacting underground pipes, wires and cables.  

Safety tips for homeowners and contractors include:

For Homeowners:

  • Call 811/MISS DIG at least three working days before beginning to dig to have underground facilities marked.
  • Avoid starting projects until you’re sure all lines are marked. Confirm that all lines have been marked by contacting 811/MISS DIG.
  • When using shovels or power equipment, respect the marks and avoid using mechanized digging equipment near them. Choose another location on the property for a project if the original planned site is near utility line markings.
  • If a contractor has been hired, confirm that a call to 811 has been made. Don’t allow work to begin if the lines aren’t marked.

For Excavation Contractors:

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( Comments Off )

In Your Community: Contractor Expo Focuses on Safe Digging

Posted on April 16, 2012. Filed under: Safety | Tags: , , |

With an unexpected increase in dig tickets and warmer than normal spring temperatures, employees and other participants shared their concerns about digging at the 2012 Capital Area Damage Prevention Association (CADPA) Contractor Expo in Mason last month. Employees, contractors, excavators, road workers and field operators gathered to learn more about personal safety and damage prevention.

“Through this expo, we hope to be proactive in damage prevention,” said Susan Franke, a Lansing public affairs administrative specialist and president of CADPA. “We want people to come away knowing the importance of working safely and preventing damage to underground utility pipes and lines.”

Employees presented on multiple topics, including locating and staking lines with United States Infrastructure Corp. Locating Services, providing occupational safety exercises, and understanding safety equipment and potential dangers as well as pipeline public awareness. The company also helped promote its “Respect the Flags” awareness program, which promotes the message of underground utility and natural gas safety in elementary schools across the state. 

“Consumers Energy is very active in damage prevention, and our employees work hard to keep one another and the public safe,” said Tabitha Morgan, a Lansing gas field leader II. “We’re staking as accurately as possible, but it’s also important to hand expose facilities and not always assume they’re initially correct.”

Donna Schmeichel, a damage prevention liaison at MISS DIG System, Inc., explained an upcoming bill proposal, Public Act 53, which would improve current dig laws. If passed, the proposed legislation would require faster response times for job requests, provide more feedback about job progress and create stricter penalties for concealing damage or operating dangerously. It also would incorporate the use of “whitelining,” or marking specific dig areas, and create more specific requirements for hand digging near underground utility lines.

“We don’t run into a lot of problems with gas or electric lines, but we find a lot of abandoned phone lines that aren’t marked, which means we have to stop and wait for someone to come out and check on them,” said Cindy Farley of the Ingham County Road Commission. “The new laws, especially the quicker response times, would be very helpful for everyone.”

Schmeichel also encouraged people to submit digging requests online through MISS DIG’s website at www.missdig.net. “It’s very easy, and if it’s a simple request or job, it is a lot faster to use this option,” she said.  

Other CADPA Contractor Expo presentations included proper excavating, trenching and shoring techniques from the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration and construction training and certification programs offered by Lansing Community College.

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( Comments Off )

Call 811 Before You Dig Into Outdoor Projects

Posted on March 21, 2012. Filed under: Safety | Tags: , , , , , |

The recent warm weather has everyone thinking about outdoor projects. The last thing anyone wants when digging into these projects is to find a buried water, gas, electric or other line. That’s why now is a good time to remind people to call 811 before the start of any digging project.

The www.call811.com web site has a wide variety of promotional materials  and information to help you get the word out. We also have a poster you can print to help promote 811. You can also add a link on your website to the 811 video embedded at the bottom of this post to provide an overview of what happens when you call 811.

Dialing 811 connects callers to MISS DIG, a statewide, one-call center for construction safety and utility damage prevention. Once a request is received, MISS DIG contacts local utility companies according to the location where a caller plans to dig. Utilities will send representatives to mark the approximate location of underground lines with paint and/or staking flags within three working days. The service is both free and required under Michigan law. 

Please note that MISS DIG will mark lines that utilities own (the main line to the meter). The customer/property owner is responsible for maintenance and operation of all gas or electric lines that flow from the meter to all appliances. This includes gas and electric lines to your yard lights, grills, pool and spa heaters, garages, workshops or other similar areas. A mechanical contractor would be able to help you mark those lines. Customers who have an outdoor sprinkler system will also need to mark those lines.

Each year, hundreds of dig-in accidents are caused by careless digging which result in damage to utility lines, service interruptions, property damage, financial penalties and personal injuries. These projects can be as small as planting trees, installing a street mailbox post or building a deck.

Here are some safety tips to share with your neighbors and local businesses:

  • Call at least three working days before beginning to dig to have underground lines marked.
  • Avoid starting projects until you’re sure all lines are marked. Confirm that all lines have been marked by contacting MISS DIG.
  • When using shovels or power equipment, respect the marks and avoid using mechanized digging equipment near them. Choose another location on the property for a project if the original planned site is near utility line markings.
  • If a contractor has been hired, confirm that a call to 811 has been made. Don’t allow work to begin if the lines aren’t marked.
Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( Comments Off )

Knowledge of Pipelines in Your Community Enhances Safety

Posted on August 22, 2011. Filed under: Natural Gas Safety | Tags: , , , , , , |

Throughout Michigan’s Lower Peninsula we have high-pressure natural gas pipelines that serve thousands of homes and business. Consumers Energy has a proactive effort to help maintain the integrity of these pipelines. Your awareness of these pipelines and any unusual activity around them can help us maintain the safety and security in your community. The tips below provide guidance on how to manage activity around our pipelines, the properties of natural gas and how to determine if there is a leak. They are also available as a brochure.

Locating Pipelines in Your Area

Take some time now to familiarize yourself with the location of pipelines in your community. One of the more visible signs of a pipeline location is a pipeline marker. For your safety, the route of an underground transmission pipeline is identified with above-ground pipeline markers. However, the markers do not indicate the pipeline’s exact location, its depth or the direction it follows. In some instances, markers may not be present in some areas.

PIpeline markers are a visible warning sign.

Pipeline markers are typically located at road, railroad and waterway crossings, and at regular intervals across agricultural areas. They are yellow signs that identify the company, type of pipeline and emergency phone number. Aerial pipeline markers approximately every four miles enable our pipeline aerial patroller to follow the route and detect soil erosion, heavy equipment working or digging in the area, or other situations requiring immediate action. 

National Pipeline Mapping System 

A map of pipeline routes will help give you a better picture of the location of pipelines in your area. The National Pipeline Mapping System (NPMS) provides contact information and data as well as maps of interstate and intrastate natural gas transmission pipelines. Since 2002, transmission pipeline operators are required to submit mapping information to the NPMS and to update their submissions annually. Consumers Energy submits data on the natural gas transmission pipelines that we own and operate.

The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, placed additional security concerns on the U.S. pipeline infrastructure. As a result, the Office of Pipeline Safety restricts access to the NPMS to federal, state and local government agencies (including emergency responders). To find out who operates pipelines in your area, contact the NPMS at www.npms.phmsa.dot.gov 

Land Use and Development Near Pipelines 

If your community does not have guidelines for construction and development near natural gas transmission pipeline corridors, consider putting some guidelines in place. These guidelines could include:

  • Requiring the consent of easement holders as a condition of issuing permits for construction or development that may impact the safe operation of pipelines
  • Requiring pipeline operator involvement in road widening or grading, mining, blasting, dredging and other activity that may impact the safe operation of the pipeline
  • Requesting residents, excavators and land developers to contact the pipeline operator regarding questions about the pipeline or pipeline corridor  

Guidelines such as these can help us in our efforts to monitor the pipeline system, perform routine maintenance and make required federal/state inspections. Pipeline operator involvement may be required before road construction projects begin in order to monitor the system, perform maintenance and make required federal/state inspections. For public safety, the following general guidelines should be observed on all pipeline corridors:

  • No structures, such as buildings, sheds and swimming pools should be located in the corridor
  • No underground facilities, such as drain tiles, culverts, electric cables, septic systems, water wells, water or sewer lines, or similar facilities should be constructed in the corridor
  • No soil is to be added or removed over the pipeline
  • No roads should be constructed over or across the pipeline
  • No trees or shrubs should be planted in the corridor
  • No blasting should be conducted in the corridor

If agricultural or farming activities in your community include deep plowing, fence post installation, trenching, leveling, subsoiling, installing drain tile or other excavation work, it’s vital to call 811 three working days before starting any digging.  A representative will mark underground lines at no cost. For more information about services for our farm customers, please visit  www.consumersenergy.com/farm . 

Land owned by Consumers Energy is private property and not open for public use without permission. The company may allow adjoining landowners and others to use its property. A lease, license, permit or easement from Consumers Energy is required before such a use is allowed.

How to Avoid Damaging a Pipeline 

Call 811 to locate pipelines and other underground utilities before you dig.

A major cause of pipeline damage is someone accidentally striking an underground pipeline. This is a serious safety threat and can lead to personal harm, physical damages and financial losses. Professional excavators and homeowners planning to dig should always call 811 at least three working days before starting any digging project.

One easy call gets free staking of underground utility lines and helps reduce the chance of injury and expense. To know what’s below, always call 811 toll-free before you dig. MISS DIG will contact the utility companies to have underground lines marked with yellow stakes, flags or paint. This service is free. It’s important to call MISS DIG even for routine jobs, such as planting shrubs/trees, replacing a mailbox post or installing a fence or a deck. 

Please note that MISS DIG will mark lines that utilities own (the main line to the meter). The customer/property owner is responsible for maintenance and operation of all gas or electric lines that flow from the meter to all appliances. This includes gas and electric lines to your yard lights, grills, pool and spa heaters, garages, workshops or other similar areas. A mechanical contractor would be able to help you mark those lines. Customers who have an outdoor sprinkler system will also need to mark those lines.

Signs of Natural Gas Leaks or Emergencies 

Despite our efforts to prevent dig-ins, many leaks are caused by damage to pipelines. We urge you to treat any sign of a natural gas leak as an emergency that may put your safety at risk. Signs of natural gas leaks or emergencies include:

  • “Rotten egg” smell (not all gas is odorized)
  • Dead or discolored vegetation in an otherwise green area
  • Dirt or dust blowing from a hole in the ground
  • Bubbling in wet or flooded areas
  • Blowing or hissing sound
  • Flames, if a leak has ignited

If you suspect a natural gas leak, follow these steps:

  • Leave the area immediately, and go to a safe location
  • Then call Consumers Energy toll-free at (800) 477-5050, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We will respond promptly at no charge.
  • Do not use any electrical device, such as light switches or telephones, or appliances such as garage door openers. They could cause a spark and ignite the gas
  • Do not use an open flame, matches or lighters
  • Do not try to locate the source of the gas leak
  • Do not try to shut off any natural gas valves or gas appliances
  • Do not start vehicles
  • Do not re-enter the building or return to the area until our employee or qualified utility representative says it’s safe to do so
  • Do not put out the flames if natural gas ignites. Burning gas will not explode

Important Facts About Natural Gas Safety 

Here are some important characteristics about natural gas that you should be aware of:

  • Natural gas is colorless, tasteless, odorless and nontoxic. To make it easier to recognize natural gas, a “rotten egg” odor is added before it reaches your home. The natural gas in most of Consumers Energy’s large transmission pipelines does not contain an odorant.
  • Natural gas cannot burn by itself. To burn, natural gas must be mixed with air. It also must have an ignition source such as a pilot light, a lighted match, or an electric arc from a light switch, motor, doorbell or telephone.
  • Burning natural gas will not explode. If natural gas does ignite, let it burn. Do not attempt to put out the flame.
  • Natural gas is not LPG.  Liquefied petroleum gases (LPG), such as propane, are different from natural gas. They are heavier than air and collect in low places. Natural gas is almost 40 percent lighter than air.

While natural gas pipelines are built according to local, state and federal guidelines, regulations and specifications with safety and reliability as top priorities, it is important to note that a natural gas leak may present these hazards:

  • Fire
  • Explosion
  • Asphyxiation (Natural gas displaces oxygen in confined spaces)

These hazards can be caused by:

  • Rupturing, nicking or puncturing a pipeline
  • Uncontrolled escaping gas
  • Under- or overpressure in the gas system
  • Equipment failure
  • Human error
  • Extreme natural events such as floods, tornadoes and earthquakes
  • Heavy ice on outside meters or other gas pipelines
  • Fire or explosion near or directly involving a pipeline facility
  • Collapsed buildings that break or damage gas pipelines
  • Water main breaks that weaken roadways and pavement, damaging gas pipelines
  • Civil disturbances such as riots

 High Consequence Areas 

In accordance with federal pipeline safety regulations, some segments along natural gas transmission lines have been designated as being in a high consequence area (HCA). HCAs include densely populated areas, schools and other high-occupancy buildings, along with parks and campgrounds. Consumers Energy has developed its Integrity Management Program to identify these areas and to perform appropriate inspections.  For more information on this program, visit pipeline integrity .

Communications with emergency officials 

Consumers Energy regularly cooperates with local emergency officials to respond to incidents involving the accidental or unintended release of natural gas. Sometimes utility personnel assist at a fire scene or other situation. In other cases, utility personnel call for public safety assistance because of a gas leak or fire.

In addition to this general brochure for local public officials, Consumers Energy also provides specific information about emergency responses to police, fire and emergency-responder organizations. Consumers Energy contacts police and fire departments annually, either by letter or in person. The annual contacts include an offer of training about natural gas systems and emergency responses. To request training at any time, call (800) 477-5050 .

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( Comments Off )

Help Us Spread the Word About Calling 811

Posted on August 18, 2011. Filed under: Natural Gas Safety | Tags: , , |

Click on the picture to get a pdf of a poster you can print and display where residents get permits or pay bills.

A major cause of pipeline damage is someone accidentally striking an underground pipeline. This is a serious safety threat and can lead to personal harm, physical damages and financial losses. Professional excavators and homeowners planning to dig should always call 811 at least three working days before starting any digging project.

Help us spread the word about the importance of calling 811 before you dig. Print off the poster displayed on the right and post it in areas where residents get permits or pay bills. One easy call gets free staking of underground utility lines and helps reduce the chance of injury and expense. This will help remind your residents to call MISS DIG even for routine jobs, such as planting shrubs or trees, replacing a mailbox post or installing a fence or a deck.

You should also remind residents that MISS DIG will mark lines that utilities own (the main line to the meter). The customer/property owner is responsible for maintenance and operation of all gas or electric lines that flow from the meter to all appliances. This includes gas and electric lines to your yard lights, grills, pool and spa heaters, garages, workshops or other similar areas. A mechanical contractor can help mark those lines. Customers who have an outdoor sprinkler system will also need to mark those lines.

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( Comments Off )

Liked it here?
Why not try sites on the blogroll...

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 425 other followers

%d bloggers like this: