How GPRS Helps Safeguard U.S. Telecom Infrastructure

How GPRS Helps Safeguard U.S. Telecom Infrastructure

Buried telecommunication infrastructure continues to bear the brunt of subsurface damage during excavation, according to a report released in late 2023 by the Common Ground Alliance.

Telecommunication and cable TV lines remained the most damaged type of subsurface utility in the CGA’s 2022 DIRT Report. These lines accounted for 47% of all utilities struck when subsurface damage occurred during groundbreaking activities.

Conversely, telecom work – including the installation of new lines, and repairs or modifications to existing utilities – contributed to the most damages, and telecom operators were among the largest contributors to instances in which excavators could not legally begin work. Additionally, contractors were involved in over half of damages that occurred while telecom and natural gas work was being completed.

In a white paper published in December 2023 titled Telecom’s Critical Role in Reversing Utility Damage Trends, CGA President & CEO Sarah K. Magruder Lyle wrote that “As both substantial contributors to and recipients of damages, telecom stakeholders have much to gain by enhancing prevention efforts.”

“…While telecom rightfully prioritizes expanding its networks and customer base, a competitive advantage does not need to come at the expense of safety,” Magruder Lyle continued. “Boosting damage prevention’s profile internally and collaborating more extensively with partners are pathways to improved outcomes…”

Damaged telecom lines can lead to service interruptions that cut off phone and internet service to entire communities for days, if not weeks, before repairs can be completed. The average cost of any kind of utility strike to a facility is $56,000, and the subsequent repair typically takes 6-8 weeks.

As the CGA’s data shows, the telecommunications sector isn’t just the most common victim of subsurface damage; it also causes a significant amount of that damage.

One reason telecom work contributed to the most damages in 2022 is because the installation of new telecom lines is typically completed using a trenchless technology known as directional boring. Also known as directional drilling, this process involves penetrating the ground at a low angle with a directional drill bit to create a path for a new utility.

One of the primary benefits of directional boring is also its biggest drawback: not having to trench to install a new line means you avoid significant surface disruption during your project, but you also run the risk of running that new line straight through an existing utility without even knowing you’ve done so.

These accidental intersections of buried lines are known as cross bores, and they can be deadly. A cross bored gas line, for example, is a ticking time bomb that endangers the lives of not only workers performing a utility install, but everyone in the community in which they are working.

The Cross Bore Safety Association estimates that there are at least one million undetected cross bores riddling our country’s subsurface infrastructure. And with more telecom lines going in the ground daily thanks to the unprecedented, ongoing expansion of fiber optic lines and other telecom systems, it’s more vital than ever that proper precautions are taken to mitigate the risk of cross bores.

Orange and green GPRS flags stick out of the ground.
GPRS’ utility locating and video (CCTV) pipe inspection services can ensure the success of your telecommunications infrastructure project.

GPRS Helps Safeguard Telecom Infrastructure

GPRS’ suite of subsurface damage prevention, existing condition documentation, and construction & facilities project management services support the safe installation, maintenance, and repair of telecommunications infrastructure.

Using ground penetrating radar (GPR) scanning, and electromagnetic (EM) locating, we can locate and map all utilities in a project site so you can dig without worrying about what you’re going to hit.

To mitigate existing cross bores and prevent the creation of new ones, our video pipe inspection (VPI) service utilizes state-of-the-art sewer scope inspection rovers to evaluate the integrity of and map your storm and wastewater infrastructure.

When GPRS conducts a VPI for you, you receive a detailed WinCan report that lists all defects found, ranked by order of severity, geolocated, and identified with both photo and video evidence so you know what needs addressing first and exactly where you need to dig.

GPRS Project Managers (PMs) are certified in both the Subsurface Infrastructure Methodology (SIM), as well as through the National Association for Sewer Service Companies’ (NASSCO) Pipeline Assessment Certification Program (PACP™), Lateral Assessment Certification Program (LACP™), and Manhole Assessment Certification Program (MACP™).

SIM is the industry-leading training program for conducting utility locating, precision concrete scanning and imaging, video (CCTV) pipe inspection, and leak detection. Achieving SIM certification means completing a minimum of 320 hours of field training and 80 hours of classroom training where the PMs tackle real-world scenarios designed to prepare them for anything they’ll encounter in the field.

The SIM specification for VPI recommends that cross bore sewer line inspections occur both before and after directional boring projects, to ensure no new cross bores are created during this process.

NASSCO is a non-profit education entity that offers industry-leading training on the best ways to conduct sewer line inspections and report findings from these inspections. SIM also recommends that when you hire a professional sewer inspection company to evaluate and map your wastewater infrastructure, you only consider firms that deploy NASSCO-certified technicians, investigations, and reporting standards.

Because we adhere to both SIM and NASSCO, GPRS’ Project Managers can provide you with accurate, actionable data to keep your projects on time, on budget and safe.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What size pipes can GPRS inspect?

Our Project Managers can inspect pipes from 2” in diameter and up.

Can you locate pipes in addition to evaluating their integrity?

Yes! Our SIM and NASSCO-certified Project Managers use VPI technology equipped with sondes, which are instrument probes that allow them to ascertain the location of underground utilities from an inaccessible location. This allows them to use electromagnetic (EM) locating to map sewer systems at the same time they’re evaluating them for defects.

Does GPRS offer same-day private utility locating?

Yes, our professional Project Managers can respond rapidly to emergency same-day private utility locating service calls on your job site.

Will I need to mark out the utilities that GPRS locates?

No, GPRS will locate and mark all utilities for you. We have a variety of tools and markers we can use to highlight the locations of utilities, underground storage tanks, and whatever else may be hiding under your job site.