Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania, a subsidiary of NiSource Inc., recently opened a state-of-the-art train-ing center in Monaca, Pennsylvania. The $10 million, 22,000 square-foot facility is the first of four leading-edge training centers that NiSource utilities will build and operate in its service territory by 2018. Others are planned in Ohio, Massachusetts and Virginia.
“It’s not just the facility that is new; we’re taking a much more comprehensive approach to our training processes,” said Mark Chepke, NiSource vice president of training. “The new facility is part of a complete rebuilding of our training program, including course material and on-the-job training.”
The center features modern, innovative teaching environments designed to train new employees, employees transitioning into more highly-skilled positions and current employees interested in enhancing their skills. The facility will also be used to coordinate training with local emergency responders in reacting to natural gas emergencies.
“All of our training includes three major areas of focus – providing great customer service, ensuring strong personal and public safety, and promoting damage prevention,” said Linda Crowley, the NiSource technical training leader who oversees the Monaca center. “Our new training facility allows us to greatly enhance public safety and protect our buried infrastructure.”
The training center provides skilled instructors the opportunity to teach Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania employees how to excavate appropriately and to better navigate underground utilities when digging. Instructors at the center also provide training to employees on how to install gas facilities so the underground utilities have a lesser chance of being damaged by future excavation or construction.
One of the main features of the facility is the outdoor Emergency Response Safety Town, a mock neighbor-hood of mini-homes and businesses, complete with underground utilities and meters, where instructors can create and control various emergency training scenarios
such as third-party damages and natural gas leak simulations.
Instructors will use the Safety Town to teach critical damage prevention skills, including line locating and marking, investigating damages, using cameras to prevent cross bores and properly install and protect new gas facilities, leak detection, corrosion monitoring, and reestablishing gas service.
“The Safety Town provides a unique opportunity to demonstrate how dig-ins impact employees, emergency responders, contractors and the community,” said Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania Damage Prevention Coordinator Stephen Dobrich. “You can try to educate someone on the importance of calling 811 by giving them a lecture in a classroom or by showing them shocking news clips. But when you are able to simulate dig-ins and employees have the opportunity to experience a dig-in emergency firsthand, it makes much more of an impact.”
A new initiative taught at the training center is using GPS equipment to accurately locate facilities.
“One of the best ways we are able to protect under-ground natural gas lines is through the use of GPS technology,” said Tony Mosqueda, a pipeline safety technician for Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania. “GPS points collected on the actual facilities during installation is the most accurate mapping data that we can get. More accurate maps can help to eliminate damages caused by poor records.”
For more information about the new Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania training center and the company’s
commitment to industry-leading safety and training, please visit www.columbiagaspa.com/training.
Sarah Perry is the Community Engagement Manager for Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania & Maryland. She can be reached at SarahPerry@nisource.com.