By David Kligman
TRACY—Pipelines buried underground carry the natural gas that heats our water and cooks our meals. But knowing the exact location of those pipelines is critical for contractors, landscapers or anyone who plans to dig or even build a fence.
In Tracy in San Joaquin County, PG&E is teaching gas employees how to find and mark the precise location of its gas pipelines. The marks let workers know where to avoid digging.
The training isn’t new but where PG&E is doing the training is—actual residential neighborhoods. It’s a lot different than the utility’s regular training ground in San Ramon and Livermore.
“You don’t have the distractions like you see out here,” said Linda Floyd, director of gas operations training. “You don’t get traffic, you don’t get dogs, you don’t have to worry about where the meter locations are. Here in the neighborhood you get the real scenarios.”
PG&E alerts homeowners with these door-hanger notices the day before the training. Day-of signs notify neighbors of what’s going on.
PG&E moved the training outdoors in Tracy and in San Jose to make room for its growing team of gas specialists. This year, the utility has added 114 new gas employees and nearly 200 more are planned for 2013. It’s all part of the utility’s commitment to make its gas operations the best in the industry.
Over a recent one-year period in Northern and Central California, more than 2,000 dig-ins by third parties resulted in striking gas lines.
PG&E reminds customers year-round about the importance of calling 811 before starting any digging project. But it’s not just underground gas lines. Crews also determine the location of electric wires and components, communications infrastructure and petroleum pipelines.
“I think people should feel happy that PG&E is putting this much time and commitment into training their people,” said Santa Rosa gas fieldperson Lou Campagna.
The sight of dozens of PG&E employees isn’t alarming. In fact, homeowner Laurita Campell said it’s a comfort knowing they’re there.
“It’s good for everybody to be educated and knowing what they’re doing and not have to worry if they’re going to hit something,” she said. “Especially with my kids, safety is No. 1.”
Classrooms are necessary and good places to learn. But nothing beats real-world experience.
Email David Kligman at David.Kligman@pge.com