Safe Digging Month: FortisBC encourages British Columbians to stay safe and "Call Before You Dig"

SURREY, BC, March 31, 2014 /CNW/ - Springtime marks the unofficial start of construction season across most of British Columbia. It's also traditionally the time of year when FortisBC experiences a spike in the number of calls to repair damage to its underground natural gas pipes and electricity lines.

April is National Safe Digging Month and FortisBC wants the public to think twice about underground utilities and "Call Before You Dig".

"Whether it's a homeowner installing a backyard fence or a construction crew digging a new foundation, people need to understand where underground utilities are located before they dig," said Doyle Sam, executive vice-president, operations and engineering, FortisBC. "Out of sight shouldn't mean out of mind."

That's why FortisBC has long supported BC One Call - a free service that provides British Columbians with up-to-date information on underground pipes and wires.

"It only takes one call to BC One Call to receive all information from participating utilities in your area," said Gary Tremblay, executive director of BC One Call. "We encourage all British Columbians to stay safe and call before they dig."

Damage to FortisBC's energy infrastructure could create potential safety hazards and often results in unplanned service outages.

Ninety-nine per cent of damage to FortisBC's natural gas system is caused by third parties such as construction crews, contractors and homeowners. The vast majority of those incidents could be prevented by calling BC One Call and following safe digging procedures.

Beyond the potential safety hazards, damage to energy infrastructure can be costly.

If proper digging practices are not followed and BC One Call isn't consulted, whoever damaged the pipeline could be on the hook for the full cost of the repairs. Often, the bills are thousands of dollars.

According to Sam, FortisBC has seen a measureable drop in the number of incidents thanks to the work done by BC One Call, the annual joint safety education programs in place and diligent excavation by crews working province-wide.

Throughout April, FortisBC is coordinating a number of outreach activities to highlight safe digging practices with the general public and contractors. These include hosting contractor breakfasts and information booths at select lumber and garden stores across B.C.

FortisBC provides safety regulators like the BC Safety Authority and WorkSafeBC with detailed findings from pipeline damages and electrical contacts. FortisBC also uses that information to remind the public to use BC One Call. As a founding member of the BC Common Ground Alliance, FortisBC also raises awareness about safe excavation practices, in line with other underground utilities and services such as telephone, cable, and sewage. For more information on pipeline safety and safe excavation practices, please visit fortisbc.com/safety or bconecall.bc.ca. Watch our "Call Before You Dig" video at youtu.be/SppxQqNDUZI.

What to do before you dig:

  1. Call BC One Call toll-free at 1-800-474-6886 (or *6886 from any cell phone) at least three business days before you start excavation. Making that call is a requirement of FortisBC and provincial gas safety regulations. When contacted, BC One Call will notify all member companies that have buried facilities in your dig area. These companies will provide you with information that will enable you to safely determine the location of underground utilities within that area

  2. Have all location information on site and refer to it during the excavation.

  3. Use the information to locate and mark lines and maintain the markings until digging is underway.

  4. HAND DIG FIRST to locate and carefully expose natural gas pipelines, underground electrical wires and other utilities before using mechanical equipment.

FortisBC is a regulated utility focused on providing safe and reliable energy, including natural gas, electricity and propane. FortisBC employs more than 2,200 British Columbians and serves approximately 1.1 million customers in 135 B.C. communities. FortisBC is indirectly wholly owned by Fortis Inc., the largest investor-owned distribution utility in Canada. FortisBC owns and operates two liquefied natural gas storage facilities and four regulated hydroelectric generating plants, approximately 7,150 kilometres of transmission and distribution power lines, and approximately 46,000 kilometres of natural gas transmission and distribution pipelines. FortisBC Inc., FortisBC Energy Inc., FortisBC Energy (Vancouver Island) Inc., and FortisBC Energy (Whistler) Inc. do business as FortisBC. Fortis Inc. shares are listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange and trade under the symbol FTS. Additional information can be accessed at www.fortisinc.com or www.sedar.com.

MEDIA CONTACT:
Michael Allison
Corporate Communications
FortisBC
Phone: 604-592-7536
Email: Michael.Allison@fortisbc.com
fortisbc.com
twitter.com/fortisBC
youtube.com/fortisBC

Gary Tremblay
Executive Director
BC One Call Ltd.
Phone: 250-537-1559
Cell: 604-230-6122

SOURCE FortisBC