When you break ground on a new project before doing a private utility locate, you’re playing Russian Roulette. You may be lucky the first time, but what about the next time?
Our modern society is supported by a labyrinth of buried utilities. This means that every time you break ground without hiring a professional utility locating company to first scan and map all the private utilities in the area, you are at risk of severing one or more of these subsurface objects.
Underground utility locating relies on technology such as ground penetrating radar (GPR) and electromagnetic (EM) locating to detect and map power, gas, water, and various other types of buried utility lines in an area where groundbreaking activities are planned.
Private utility locates are a vital step in the construction process to ensure the safety of not only everyone involved in the project, but the surrounding community.
In the United States, we have state-issued 811 One Call services to locate public utilities – those owned by a service provider – at any site prior to excavation. Contractors are required by federal and state law to call 811 to locate public utility lines prior to breaking ground, regardless of the scope of their project.
But 811 Call Before You Dig services are required to locate public utilities, not private ones. Additionally, One Call is unable to provide the depths of the lines they locate.
Over 60% of all buried utility lines are private, meaning they’re owned by individuals or businesses.. If you don’t hire a private underground utility locator to identify any of these lines in your project area prior to digging, you run the risk of knocking out power to an entire neighborhood, creating a water emergency for a municipality, or causing serious injury or death with a gas line explosion or electrical line strike.
To avoid these catastrophic consequences, request a private underground utility locate in addition to contacting 811.
Performing a utility locate reveals all forms of buried utility lines, underground storage tanks (USTs), and other subsurface objects.
Utility locates should occur before any excavation or other destructive activities begin, because hitting even a single utility line could result in costly and dangerous subsurface damage.
The 2021 Finch Report, prepared for GPRS by a leading research firm who polled facility managers nationwide, determined that the average total cost of a single utility strike is $56,000. This includes project downtime, repairs, medical costs, and in the worst cases, evacuating surrounding neighborhoods. But the biggest risk of not having a utility locate is not to the pocketbook; it’s to the workers performing the task.
A ruptured gas line could lead to serious injury or even death to those on site. A severed power line could cause electrocution, which also could lead to death. A damaged water line could flood a trench and delay work by days or even weeks.
The worst-case scenarios from utility strikes are frequently found in the news.
In Huntsville, Alabama, a family of seven saw their house explode after an independent contractor struck a gas line while working in the area. Residents in one neighborhood in O’Fallon, Missouri, were forced to evacuate their homes numerous times over a months-long saga in which a crew kept hitting gas lines while digging at a fiber broadband installation site.
A firefighter was tragically killed in an explosion that destroyed a city block in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, where, just as in O’Fallon, Missouri, a gas line was punctured as workers laid fiber optic cable lines.
No matter the extent of the repercussions, subsurface damage hurts a company’s reputation. No one wants to be the contractor known for hitting buried utilities.
The time required for a utility locating project depends on various factors including the amount of space being scanned, the client’s needs, the number of subsurface objects located, and more.
If you have an open field, the time to scan is drastically less than if you are in a congested intersection on a main roadway, or a complex campus. We look at every job and ask our clients what their scope of work is and when they plan on executing their work. Once we have this information, we can begin to compartmentalize how we would go about scanning their specific site.
GPRS SIM-certified Project Managers are experts who can immediately interpret the information collected from GPR and/or EM locators, and we provide free PDF and .KMZ files on all outdoor utility locates.
Anyone can rent or buy a GPR unit and/or an EM locating system. However, just because the equipment is readily available not mean you will be able to easily locate and map your subsurface utility infrastructure.
The type of GPR required to locate underground utilities has a purchase cost of somewhere between $14,000 and $100,000. As the number of available frequencies, the user interface, and GPS mapping applications expand, so does the cost. Then, there’s the additional cost and time investment required for proper training on how to operate that equipment.
Above all, the technology relies on the knowledge and experience of its operator.
GPRS utilizes the industry-leading Subsurface Investigation Methodology, or SIM, which requires every Project Manager receive 320 hours of field training and log 80 hours of classroom training where they tackle real-world scenarios in a safe and structured environment.
All this training ensures that our Project Managers can accurately interpret the readings provided by a GPR unit.
Through our use of GPR, EM locating and other technologies, and our dedication to industry-leading training and standards, GPRS is able to provide services such as utility locating to Intelligently Visualize The Built World™ for our clients and customers.
It is vital to visualize what you cannot see before you break ground. GPRS’ utility locating services are here to provide you with 99.8%+ accuracy on every utility locate we do, and our Project Managers can work with you to help create a ground disturbance policy that allows you to spend your infrastructure dollars as efficiently and responsibly as possible.
What can we help you visualize?