February 15, 2011
By Terry Murphy CLP

Terry MurphyMark Humphries has been in the landscape contracting business for many years and has done numerous construction projects. His company is Humphries Landscape Services in Oshawa.

Mark and I were speakers at the Ontario Regional Common Ground Alliance convention about five years ago. Mark told the audience his very unique story about locates. I thought our readers may be interested in his true story! His story follows:

“The value of locates cannot be underestimated. The safety of our workers is obvious and paramount, however, we cannot underestimate the potential business repercussions. We (as a company) were extremely fortunate to have had a locate at a time we caused millions of dollars in damage. We were also fortunate that there was no personal injury. It was told to me at the scene on the day of the incident, ‘If you had not had a locate, I would have told you to get your wife, a suitcase and run.’

“We had been contracted by an electrical firm to trench and install a three-quarter inch conduit. They chose a landscaping firm, as it was a well-cared for site and they desired minimal impact and expert restoration.

“Locates were done by all utilities, including an inquiry by us of site facility staff. Our machine of choice was a walk-behind Ditch Witch. Soon after starting, we struck a one inch copper waterline. The water was quickly turned off and the facility staff assumed responsibility for its repair. We had asked them about services in our area of excavation, but they “forgot” about the waterline’s presence.

“Once we dried off and resumed, it was not long before fire trucks, police cars and security vehicles were all about the downtown core going to every building. I only had to walk back along the trench, a short distance, to see that a Bell cable was spaghettied into a bird nest at the bottom of the trench. Our disturbance to the police, fire and alarm company circuits proved minimal to what would soon unfold.

“Two major trunk cables, heading into a secure switching vault, handled all the regional police communications, including their back-up system. The system handled all communication to the local fire department, C.O.M.R.A. Search and Rescue operations, and all banking connections between Toronto and all points east to the east coast. This included the Stock Exchange connection between Toronto and Montreal, and, all real time communication throughout the province to the Ministry of Revenue building, located in town.

“WOW! You never saw so many Bell employees in minutes. Bell employees and their executives came all the way from Montreal. It took a pit 10’ x 6’ x 4’ deep, six men and 36 hours to make the repair on the 1,200 pair twin cables. It required a total of 19,200 crimps to complete the repairs.

“It was reported to me that the cost to Bell was millions of dollars, not only in lost revenue, but primarily in penalties for interruption of guaranteed service.

“These damages would have been well beyond our insurance, even if the insurance company would cover the damage without a locate. This incident very well could have been life altering for myself, my family, my business and all those we employ. I was protected, all for the sake of a free, one-phone-call locate. Please make the call.”
Please send your comments, suggestions and ideas to tvmurphy@ca.inter.net.