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Damage Prevention Professional invites you to send us your questions about excavation safety and damage prevention, and we will have them answered by a professional working in an appropriate area of the industry . Send your questions to: Ask The DP Pro, Damage Prevention Professional, 10740 LyndaleAvenue South, Suite 15W, Bloomington, MN 55420 or email to Michele

I know it is important to take pictures to document the site of a damage, but what kind of pictures should I be taking to make sure I have good documentation?


By Ron Peterson, Executive Director, Nulca

First, make sure the site is documented with pictures before excavation starts. Comparing “before” and “after” images of the dig site can be a key proponent in determining root cause.

Next, on damages involving natural gas, pipelines and/or electrical lines, check with the incident commander or utility representative in charge before taking any pictures to make sure it is safe. Cameras and cell phones can be ignition sources and taking pictures before it is safe to do so could result in an entirely new and dangerous incident.

As soon as it is safe, begin recording the damage. Try to tell a story with your  photographs. Start with the big picture by taking overview shots and shots that include landmarks that provide perspective, then work in toward the damage. You
cannot take too many pictures of a damage scene. A common mistake among even experienced investigators is taking too few pictures or pictures of the point of  damage itself with no overview of the area.

Sometimes, an onsite visual inspection of the area leads a person to believe they have captured the necessary information with the camera. With digital photography
you can check your images as you go, which helps, but it is best to follow a set procedure to ensure that all necessary evidence to evaluate the incident has been obtained.

One simple procedure is the clock method. Imagine the damage at the center of the clock where the arms meet. Start at the 12 o’clock position at a distance of  approximately 50 feet from the point of damage (distance will vary according to the
size of the damage). Take a picture and then move to a point halfway toward the
damage and take another picture. Now move to a point near the damage (within
a few feet) and take a third picture. Repeat this process around the clock at positions
1:30, 3:00, 4:30, 6:00, 7:30, 9:00 and 10:30. This will yield 24 pictures from all points around the damage.

After capturing these images, be sure to obtain images of equipment, personnel or witnesses. Also, make sure you capture images of any locate marks (or lack thereof) or other above-ground indicators of buried utilities.

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