Damage Prevention Efforts: Critical Needs as Consumer Demand Grows

As far back as Roman times glass has been
drawn into fibers. Throughout the centuries,
many scientists, physicists, educators,
entrepreneurs and others have evolved fiber
optic cable.

In 1991, optical amplifiers were built into the fiber optic cable. The all-optic system
could carry 100 times more information. The first all-optic fiber cables to use optical
amplifiers, TPC-5, was laid across the Pacific Ocean in 1996. The following year, the Fiber
Optic Link Around the Globe (FLAG) became the longest single-cable network in the world and provided the infrastructure for the next generation of internet applications.

Today, many industries use fiber optic technology in a variety of applications and telecommunications is certainly one of them.

Damage Prevention Collaboration
During the CGA 811 Excavation Safety Conference & Expo this past March, the second annual Fiber Optic Asset Symposium was held. Our focus for the event was, Protecting and Monitoring: Leveraging Best Practices.

I had the privilege of moderating this event. Our goal was to present important information from a diverse and talented group of industry leaders in damage prevention. Each panelist discussed his or her damage prevention tools, software, company initiatives, and items that have made a significant impact on the damage prevention industry. We also covered how those efforts have evolved the way they do business.

The panelists included Bill Gabor, Director of Operations for BCE Nexxia; Allen S. Gray, Carolinas AGC NC/SC Government Relations, Utility Division Director; Andrea Stainback, Network Cost Recovery-Damages Manager, CenturyLink; Derek Rieckmann, Midco GIS Manager; and Christopher F. McDermott, Director, National Transmission & Local
Network Service (LNS) Outside Plant for AT&T Inc.

Many initiatives are underway throughout the telecommunications industry. The topics covered at the symposium included:
• Average fiber restoration time
• Each state’s Department of Transportation and utility relocation projects and how new
infrastructure is being tracked (not all are doing this the same way)
• DIRT compatible fields and DIRT reporting
• Updates to the Damage Claim Invoicing Systems
• “Call Before you Dig” messages to the state’s utility members, including messages in bill inserts
• Reduction of buried service wire cuts
• Stronger relationship building with our current excavation partners and locators in the field
• Strengthening best practices to prevent damages
• 811 signage on all outside plant vehicles
• Accurate updating of CDC boundaries to ensure all new infrastructure is captured and in
the system
• Importance of high quality data
• New GPS enabled fiber locating tools
• Verification of fiber records and drawing corrections
• 5-day classroom locating/protecting standards
• Annual web based locating/protecting standards
• Critical importance of delivering automated software notifications to excavators and utility owners
• Hot ticket dispatch software – text/email
• Right-of-way remediation/standards compliance
• Web-based near-miss documentation

Mapping at Midco
At Midco, we began laying fiber optic cable in 1992 and since then have installed more than 9,000 miles of fiber interconnecting our 348 communities. As telecommunications
companies expand technology throughout their footprints and beyond, this poses excavation challenges for existing infrastructure.

Consumer demand for faster broadband services is driving exponential growth in the telecommunications industry. With this, there is considerably more excavating, more construction, and more fiber-optic cable being placed in the ground.

That’s why Midco is working on multiple utility locate initiatives. We’re implementing additional safety measures for our critical infrastructure, which we define as any fiber cable with a transport circuit and any fiber cable with 80 or more fiber strands having active circuits.

The steps everyone takes to prevent damage will evolve with ongoing technological advancements. It is imperative operators take the necessary steps for progress and keep pace with the unprecedented bandwidth growth so we continue to keep our communities safe.

(Editor’s Note: read more about Midco’s damage prevention efforts in the online version of Damage Prevention Professional.)

Erin Hayes is Director of Corporate Construction with Midco. Since joining Midco in 1993, she has championed Midco network mapping strategy, created a Target Zero construction safety program, and designed and built a state-of-theart, fiber-deep system architecture. See the extended version of this article in the digital edition available at dp-pro.com

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