Utility disaster re-enacted for public awareness

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Published: Sep. 21, 2022 at 11:17 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - A safety office and gas company partnered to simulate an underground emergency at the South Carolina Fire Academy on Monday.

S.C. 811 is the state’s underground utility locator designated for contractors to protect surrounding communities when excavating an area. The office says some contractors bypass the toll-free call at the expense of community safety.

Two examples of such negligence were exhibited when third-party contractors snapped an electric line on Sunday and natural gas line on August 24.

“We’ve obviously had some incidents in the news recently. You have to clear out areas at school and subdivisions of that nature. So even a minor hit on a pipeline... does not play out very well,” said Misty Wise, Executive Director of S.C. 811.

In response, S.C. 811 hosted a comprehensive training day for third-party contractors alongside their biggest partner, Dominion Energy. The course featured a two-part, 45-minute simulation of proper and improper utility protocols.

“The number one threat to our natural gas system is going to be third-party damage. So it’s going to be excavators, or contractors doing any type of digging project and mistakenly striking one of our lines,” said Ashley Cunningham, spokesperson for Dominion Energy.

Part two of the live simulation showed two contractors failing to call 811 before they broke ground. Subsequently, a crawler-mounted excavator struck a utility line causing “gas” to fill the air while a worker fell “unconscious” from exposure.

Emergency medical technicians and firefighter trainees arrived on the scene to demonstrate their response. Wise said this scene was an accurate depiction of an avoidable situation.

“If you are doing any sort of excavation work you should be calling or clicking before you dig. Whether you’re a homeowner, routine excavator, or plumber, doesn’t matter. It’s free service.”

For more information, before you dig, call or visit 811.

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