Canadian Perspective

The Quest for One Call’s Holy Grail: A Standardized Ticket


I heard that in 2016 when I asked why One Call business rules are not aligned to produce a common ticket format. Later that same year, we decided to prove them wrong. British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba set out to align the business rules of the western Canadian provinces and to have the task completed in eight months. Challenge accepted.

Why Standardize Ticket Formats?

Our first step was to identify what made the grail worthy of the struggle. A standard ticket format is not just convenient for excavators; it is a major step towards an automated, safer and more efficient future for the One Call process. Consistent business rules and standardization offer specific benefits:

• Consistent and reliable placement of information strengthens damage prevention by decreasing the chance of critical information being overlooked in “Comments or Additional Information.”

• Infrastructure owners and locators can optimize parsing rules and procedures across their entire operation.

• Software providers can roadmap products based on known inputs and outputs, decreasing delays and costs associated with development and support.

• One Call centers could more easily provide mutual aid and disaster recovery support across jurisdictions.

• Standardized industry reporting increases data quality (for example, in DIRT).

Where to Begin?

It is critical to put the right knights at your round table. The committee must be of sufficient size to be representative of stakeholder groups, but small enough to move nimbly and decisively. Committee members have to be influencers in their stakeholder group. Moreover, the individuals around the table must possess these qualities:

• Understand the reasons why certain business rules exist (historical context)

• Understand why those reasons may not be valid today

• Vision that allows them to see past roadblocks to a clear path forward

• Desire to participate in lively, knowledgeable debate with other experts while understanding that victory is consensus – not winning the argument

What are we looking for?

You must recognize the grail when you see it, so define objectives clearly. Once you agree to the benefits of a single ticket format, measure every decision against those benefits. Create the ideal ticket without concern for how the software will work. Choose to drive the technology development rather than accept the way it always has been done. Most software providers prefer users who can provide them with a clear roadmap to the target.

Determine information that is critical versus “nice to have.” Primarily, One Call centers provide infrastructure owners with information that clearly defines the what (type of work), where (exact scope of the dig site), when (project timeframe) and who (contact information). Everything else becomes “nice to have.”

Determine the most effective way to capture the where. Analysis done in Alberta and Ontario shows that user-provided drawings reduce damages. Who knows better where they are digging? Getting precise location maps to the members is critical to safety and to expediting responses. Western Canada chose to make a GML file mandatory on outbound tickets so every member can pull that shape file into their own system for screening.

Journey’s End

A worthy quest includes dark paths and challenges. There may be knights who say “nay” and strange bridge sentries along the way. You will find, however, that possessing the grail is the key to unlocking new potential. The standardized ticket is the first step in the much longer journey to efficiency, cost-effectiveness and reduced damages. Meet the challenges in the name of the greater good and continue to move forward to success.

Sher Kirk is Operations Director at Alberta One-Call Corporation, Chair of the Canadian One Call Centres Committee and a board member of the Canadian Common Ground Alliance. She can be reached at

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