NIPSCO teamed up with the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission, and the Washington Township Volunteer Fire Department to teach area professionals around Northwest Indiana about safe digging through a live demonstration of a pipe being hit.
"Everyone in this room is involved in the complex process to keep underground pipes safe. Everyone one of us needs to communicate." Steve Allen, Director of Pipeline Safety for the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission, said to the crowd.
The day started with classroom learning about the importance of calling 8-1-1 before you dig.
“We’re trying to show folks the Indiana digging law,” said Darby Miller, Underground Plant Protection Program Manager for the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission. “We have people talking about what you have to do and what the best practices are. We also have actual excavators explaining the ways their company stays safe. We really want to tell everybody to call 8-1-1. It’s easy, it’s fast, it’s free."
In Indiana, it's legal to dig on your own property to a depth of about 12 inches using hand tools. "You should still call 8-1-1 every time you dig," Miller said. "Just because a pipe was buried at 12 inches doesn't mean that it hasn't moved up with time. That doesn't usually happen, but we want people to recognize that it's a possibility and stay safe."
Many negative things can happen when a pipe is hit, from a gas explosion to losing access to 9-1-1 for the entire area. Sometimes it's just as simple as losing cable TV, but protecting the pipelines protects everyone. NIPSCO highly values safety and is responsible for many of the lines in Northwest Indiana.
Andy Stone, Vice President of Gas Operations for NIPSCO, said, “This is really important to us because it’s preventing damage, it’s public safety, our employee safety, customer safety. We promote damage prevention and 8-1-1 in every breath we can. This is very exciting for me because we have the excavator community here, we have the locator community here, and the Indiana Regulatory Commission here supporting us. The line strike will be a fun demonstration that will let you see what we see first hand and not be in any danger. It’s really promoting community safety.”
The demonstration was set up by Entertech. It took place at the Porter County Fairgrounds, as to avoid bystanders who would mistake the demonstration for a real accident. A compressor was hooked up to an 8-foot pipe with holes in it. The pipe had powder put on top of it, and then was buried. A demonstrator boarded a small excavator and began to dig. Suddenly, the compressor is flipped on, the powder flew into the air simulating a gas cloud, and a demonstrator falls to the ground. NIPSCO, Washington Township Volunteer Firefighters, and local EMS responders report and showed how they would respond.
The firefighters were in full uniform and turned on their hose, NIPSCO employees came to the scene to report on what was going on and turn off the gas. EMS picked up the "injured" participant and put him on a stretcher.
“We’re simulating what would happen if we had a patient in this scenario. Getting together with NIPSCO and the IURC has been pretty cool for us,” said Kelly Bogan, Captain for the Washington Township Volunteer Firefighters.
The demonstration is an important part of the training.
“Having a class setting where you can talk about it is very important, but it only goes so far,” said Patrick Carney, Poject Management Coordinator at Entertech. “When they actually see the live demonstration of a pipeline rupture, they see the whole effect when the police, fire, and EMS show up. They see what can actually happen just by one mess up.”
For more information about safe digging, visit https://www.nipsco.com/stay-safe/gas-safety/digging-safety-call-811.