The Value Of Accident Documentation

By Jeff Griffin, Senior Editor | February 2013, Vol. 68 No. 2
Ron Peterson, Utility Consulting Professionals

No matter the type of camera and video device used, it’s important to get the photos and videos off the device and onto a laptop or office computer and properly identified and filed.

Dealing With the Press

Utility hits often receive the attention of the news media.

Mobile television news crews, equipped with police scanners in their vehicles, are interested in accidents where there are injuries reported or involve fires or disruption of traffic and neighborhoods. Flames or water shooting in the air and flooding streets make compelling pictures on the evening news.

The first responsibility of construction personnel following an incident is to protect the public safety, then to assist in gathering information about what happened.

“Never suggest cause or responsibility,” says Ron Peterson, president, Utility Consulting Professionals, Inc. “”I don’t know,’ or ‘I don’t have that information,’ are acceptable answers to reporters’ questions.”

In news reports, statements can be taken out of context or portions of comments can be used that can change the meaning of what was said.

Indeed, a good answer to any request for information at the site is: “The incident is under investigation and that information is not available.” That’s usually the answer given by law enforcement officers, fire fighters and other emergency personnel.

Each company or organization involved should have one designated person to meet with the press. Other personnel should be directed to not answer questions.

If an organization has a public relations or corporate communications staff member, that person should be the press contact for information in the days after the incident.

Share information with D.I.R.T.

The Damage Information Reporting Tool (DIRT) Program gathers and analyzes information about accidental damage to underground infrastructure and has developed a growing database about root causes of utility incidents.

The program was initiated by the Common Ground Alliance (CGA), a member-driven association dedicated to reducing damages to all underground facilities in North America through shared responsibility among all stakeholders.

“Participation in DIRT is important,” says Ron Peterson, president, Utility Consulting Professionals, Inc. “Information submitted is confidential and is used only to help identify root causes of damage to facilities to assist in programs that will help reduce future incidents. This is valuable information that we need to share.”