Effective Communication with Excavators

One of the weakest links in the damage prevention industry’s One Call process is ineffective communication. Effective communication depends on the entire communication chain, which begins with the One Call ticket submission and continues through ticket completion. The communication chain begins when a utility receives a ticket from the One Call center. The facility owner then assigns the ticket to a locator who will perform the locate. The facility owner must ensure that tickets are completed promptly. Every stakeholder in the process contributes to the success of the communication chain by providing information exchange avenues. Conversely, every stakeholder in the process runs the risk of either knowingly or unknowingly contributing to information exchange barriers.

One Call centers contribute to information exchange avenues by offering multiple ways for excavators to communicate with the centers (phone, website portal, etc.) and by accepting positive response (PRS). When One Call centers accept positive response, more information can be submitted with every ticket, for example, drawings, as-builts, and surveys. This additional information can be helpful with the locating of the ticket. One Call centers publish PRS info on their website, and some take it to the next level by pushing positive response information out to excavators. This eliminates instances of relying solely on excavators to seek out that information.

Facility owners can positively impact the communication chain by sharing as much information as possible. Some manage and locate their own tickets and others work with contract locators. In both cases, facility owners contribute to the success of the communication chain by ensuring that positive response is passed on to the excavator. Another way that facility owners add to a successful communication chain is by ensuring an open line of communication exists between themselves and excavators if the locate is delayed, cannot be completed, or questions arise.

Locators and excavators, whether facility employed or independent contractors, can best contribute to the success of the communication chain when provided with positive response, up-to-date equipment, GIS mapping data, and as much information about a dig site as possible. A direct line of contact between excavators and locators, as well as direct lines of contact between excavators, locators, and facility owners about the particulars of a dig site are crucial. Ensuring that excavators and contractors are presented with adequate information exchange avenues proves beneficial for all stakeholders.

Many organizations leverage technology to assist in this vital communication, yielding higher levels of transparency and dependable communication avenues. E-Ticket submission, One Call ticket management software, GIS/mapping digital access, electronic positive response, and mobile devices are some examples of tools and processes that help facilitate communication needed by all stakeholders in this process.

Steps that can be taken by stakeholders in order to ensure better outcomes include breaking down information exchange barriers, increasing transparency between all stakeholders, promoting and enforcing positive response laws, leveraging today’s technology, understanding and appreciating all participants in the process, and utilizing peers in the industry. Making sure all stakeholders are using the right tools and implementing best practices for communication will ensure the safest possible outcome.

Tom Hall is the Vice President of Business Development at KorTerra. Tom has been a part of the damage prevention industry for many years, attending, presenting and speaking at many damage prevention related events across the country.

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