In 2018, MISS DIG 811 and Blood Hound Underground Utility Locators began discussing what the meaning of a “One Call system” entails. At the time, contact with MISS DIG 811 meant public facilities would be marked for an excavation area; however, issues remained on marking private facilities. First, do the contractors understand the need for a private locate? Second, when the contractor does know, it takes additional calls to get private utilities located. The lack of knowledge and awareness to make a second call to a private locating firm resulted in utility damages, injuries to homeowners and contractors.
To increase safety and awareness, MISS DIG 811 and Blood Hound partnered to make a true “One Call” for all utility locating. The goal was to incorporate an option with the MISS DIG 811 process that allowed excavators to be contacted regarding private locating options. The challenge? How to partner a for-profit company with the not-for-profit One Call while maintaining its integrity.
MISS DIG 811 Member Services then proposed creating a locator code for Blood Hound. This would allow transmissions be sent to Blood Hound based on their geographic coverage in Michigan. Next, it was recognized that not all locate requests have the need or that excavators wanted private utilities located. This issue was resolved by adding a button for the excavators to choose “yes/no” to requesting a private locate.
A pilot program was established in April 2020 to determine the success of this endeavor. For simplicity, it was decided MISS DIG 811 would only offer the option to request private locates to excavators who participated in their Remote Ticket Entry (RTE) program. This meant only users who underwent specific training and were approved by MISS DIG 811 staff to use the ticket entry system would be allowed to place private locate requests.
When an RTE user chose “yes”, a transmission was initiated to Blood Hound through their locator code. Blood Hound would then contact the user (i.e. excavator) about private locating and educate them on the difference between public and private locates. When the user chose to proceed, they would schedule a time for Blood Hound to perform the private locate services and the user would pay them for their services. After contacting the user, Blood Hound would post in the Positive Response system.
The pilot initially included two of the 83 Michigan counties (Oakland and Macomb). After four months, Blood Hound requested to add an additional 16 counties. While the number of private locate requests appeared low (0.4% of all RTE requests), Blood Hound reported success due to the opportunity of educating callers of the differences between public and private locating. The conversations not only built relationships for potential future work, but ensured ALL utilities were located, making the dig sites safe!
When the pilot program ended in March 2021, the MISS DIG 811 Board of Directors approved moving the pilot to a statewide program, resulting in two additional private locating companies joining the program. MISS DIG 811 also sent out a survey pertaining to the private locate program. Over 60% of respondents, from a sample size of 2,045, said it would be helpful to request private locating services when contacting MISS DIG 811.
The Private Locate program success has led MISS DIG 811 to investigate the benefits of including other services to the industry such as Locate Now, vacuum excavation, surveying and subsurface utility engineering.
By moving in this direction, the notification system will not only become the hub for diverse services but also increase the safety and convenience of its users.