Safe Digging Down Under

No matter which hemisphere you dig in, safety is the primary goal. I learned this lesson on a recent trip to Australia’s Gold Coast to attend the NULCA Australia meeting. Providing a keynote address in a country you have never visited can seem a bit daunting. However, my mind was quickly put to ease the moment I entered NULCA’s event.

JimBob Sims ([f] Texas 811) and Khrysanne Kerr (CGA) pose with Dial Before car

Besides the accents of the attendees, the room was filled with energy and ideas from problem solvers that was very reminiscent of many meetings that I’ve attended in the lower 48. I quickly realised, though, that only one person in the room had an accent according to the attendees, and that was me.

L-R: Henny Weatherly; Neil Weatherly (APA Group), Paul Newman (Dial Before You Dig), Khrysanne Kerr (CGA)

It was brought to my attention that the Aussies and the Kiwis (New Zealanders) alike, share the same passion, interest and goals that our North American stakeholders have. Although the approach varies greatly, the end goal is the same: zero damages.

Ron Peterson (Nulca USA) and other CGA members attending the NULCA Australia meeting

The CGA Best Practices and the Damage Information Reporting Tool, DIRT, were the primary topics when speaking with professional locators, utility owner operators, One Call personnel and municipalities. Understanding how to do the right thing (and understanding how to track it when you don’t) can provide an opportunity to explore root causes of damages and ways to fix them.

The common thread of DIRT data was a primary topic at most of my meetings as measurement and a united effort towards zero damages seems to be an international focus. When data can be collected in various formats from multiple countries, it provides those of us in the US additional data sources to analyse and trend. Data is powerful and necessary to continue to move damage prevention forward on a local, regional, national and international level.

Nothing is more rewarding to a speaker, especially one that has traveled more than 10,000 miles to be there, than receiving questions relative to the content you presented. Much to my delight, we had so many questions that I was asked to sit on a panel a day later for a more in-depth discussion on damage prevention efforts.

Questions were insightful and respectful of the US process as it compares to the Aussie process. How Common Ground Alliance came to be, request for locates via the web and the 811 public awareness campaign were all up for discussion. It was a great opportunity to share some of our successes as well as some of our challenges and vice versa. Dial Before You Dig has incredible brand recognition in Australia and locates via the web exceed 90 percent of all inbound requests. From my standpoint, it was great to learn about how the Aussies have reached these high achievements.

NULCA Australia is a leader in underground damage prevention effort. It was great to be a part of their successful endeavor to raise awareness, bring the challenging issues to the forefront to reduce damages. Events such as this make the world a smaller place and hopefully a much safer one too.


Khrysanne M. Kerr is Vice President of Communications for Common Ground Alliance. She will be presenting at the Oceania Damage Prevention Conference on Australia’s G old Coast this August 20-23. For more information, visit OceaniaDPC.com. Khrysanne can be reached at kerr@commongroundalliance.com.

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