After 94 incidents of damage to natural gas lines in the past 18 months, the City of Kelowna and Fortis B.C. are asking the public to make sure proper protocol is followed when doing any sort of digging.
David Albrecht, a damage investigator with Fortis B.C., said Kelowna is among the top three worst offenders for damaging underground pipes.
“We are the third largest number of hits in the province, behind Surrey and Vancouver,” said Albrecht.
With this in mind, Fortis B.C. held a seminar on Wednesday to spread awareness about safe digging practices.
According to Fortis B.C., the process of finding out where underground infrastructure lays is quite simple.
“Phone before you dig, and they’ll provide you with a job package,” said Fortis B.C. pipeline inspector Brad Braybrook.
The package contains information on what is underground on the property.
The gas and electricity company is required to give this information in no more than two days.
The next step is to dig and locate the equipment, and if one can’t, “phone back and request a physical locate, and then a Fortis representative will come out there.”’
If a natural gas line is struck, it’s not just Fortis which comes to the rescue, but also the fire department.
“Typically, we can be there anywhere for four to eight minutes before the utility company is on scene,” said Kelowna Fire Department training officer Glenn Paley, “and we can provide scene safety.”
The fire department also responds to fallen power lines, another safety issue Fortis B.C. wants to inform people on.
“Every year, we as Fortis want to be able to share electrical safety with our first responders, our police, contractors things like that,” said Benton Hadley, an operation supervisor with Fortis B.C. electric.
“So when we’re working around electricity, you need to understand the safety hazards of it.”
He urges the public to stay back at least 10 metres, about the length of a school bus, if a power line is broken.
“If you see a power line down, 10 metres, 33 feet, about the length of a school bus, stay back, and keep everyone else back,” said Hadley.
“Phone 911 or call Fortis B.C., and we come out. We have guys available to come out and assist with that.”