Avoiding Disaster

Utility Line Locators are usually the first line of defense when it comes to damage prevention of buried infrastructure. Pacific Coast Locators and Private locating companies in conjunction with 811 are the ones that answer the calls literally when the majority of locate requests are submitted during peak construction season. Safety is always the number one priority when technicians are dispatched to handle these requests. Their goal is to make accurate locates so excavators can avoid service disruptions, fines, damages, or the worse case scenario of course personal harm.

A county worker leading a team of jail inmates building a dirt road accidentally struck a gas line in Fresno County back in 2015. The California Public Utilities Commission findings said that their investigation after this incident revealed no one had checked for underground utilities before work began.

Witnesses described a scene of destruction in the aftermath, with a crater marking the point of the explosion at the gun range. Thirty-five firefighters quickly put the blaze down, and Pacific Gas & Electric cut off the gas supply to the line.

The county worker leading the team and at least one of the inmates were critically injured in the explosion. The inmates were part of a work program at the Fresno County Jail, Martinez said. “I heard a whirring sound like a helicopter, then two booms and fire,” said Mark Price, who witnessed the blast. Spencer Olson was drilling for water nearby. “My jaw dropped,” he said. “I saw an enormous fireball. “The accident forced the closure of California 99 in both directions.

Accidents like this are avoidable. Calling 811 and then a private utility locating company to locate and mark out all subsurface utilities should always be something that’s built in to an experienced Project Managers budget.

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