Posted on April 18, 2013

San Mateo County: First Responders Join PG&E’s National Safe Digging Month Efforts

SAN CARLOS – As part of April’s National Safe Digging Month, PG&E conducted emergency responder training at its San Carlos Service Center for fire, police, and emergency services departments in San Mateo County today (April 18).

PG&E has been talking to fire chiefs and other officials about coordinating efforts to publicize the importance of calling 811 before starting a digging project.

Prior to the training, it was announced that a Peninsula 811 Task Force would be formed to increase dialogue and share information among key entities, raise public awareness, and formulate a coordinated and proactive effort to address the issue of third-party dig-ins.  This is the second task force created and follows the creation of a similar task force yesterday in Alameda County.

“Excavation damage is among the leading causes of pipeline accidents in the United States. In 2012, PG&E experienced over 1,000 incidents where a third party dug into its natural gas pipelines or electric power lines without calling 811,” said John Higgins, PG&E’s senior director of gas distribution maintenance and construction operations. And 215 of those were in San Mateo County.

Higgins added, “811 is a free call, and we need to work closer with our local public safety personnel to make sure we know each other and we understand what the expectations are from the lead agencies so we can best support them in emergency situations such as dig-ins.”.

Redwood City Fire Chief Jim Skinner talked about the importance of partnering with PG&E.

“We appreciate PG&E’s commitment to educating customers about the importance of safety and the 811 service to avoid accidents and public safety situations,” said Skinner.  “These accidents can be prevented with an easy call to 811, a free service that provides important information on where utilities exist beneath excavation areas, and we plan to educate residents and workers on the Peninsula through this Task Force.”

The goal of this task force will be:

  • For PG&E to work in close partnership with local community partners to make sure residents and workers on the Peninsula to hear four simple words loud and clear: “Call before you dig.”
  • To recruit a cross-section of key stakeholders to participate including those representing public safety, utilities, public works departments, community members, elected officials, organized labor, contractors and business leaders.

PG&E representatives met with firefighters in San Carlos today to talk about increasing 811 awareness.

  • To increase dialogue and share information among key entities, raise public awareness, and formulate a coordinated and proactive effort to address the issue of third-party dig-ins.

“It is part of PG&E’s increased efforts to tackle major issues on the local level by closely partnering with our friends in local communities,” said Papia Gambelin, newly appointed corporate affairs director for local presence in the PG&E’s Central Coast Region, which includes the Peninsula.

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