One Call Systems
pipelines must cross the countryside to deliver products over long
distances, the pipeline has many neighbors. The pipeline crosses
creeks and rivers, highways and roads, farmers’ fields, parks,
and may be close to homes, businesses or other community centers.
To protect the communities, pipeline neighbors, sensitive environmental
areas, as well as the pipeline itself, the pipeline industry and
other operators of underground facilities joined together in creating
notification centers that are used by anyone preparing to conduct
work close to the pipeline.
These centers – called one-call centers – serve as
the clearinghouse for excavation activities that are planned close
to pipelines and other underground utilities. One-call centers help
to protect 911 emergency telephone service, underground power lines,
water and sewer pipes and energy pipelines.
The one-call programs work like this. A call center is set up so
that anyone who will be digging or excavating using mechanized equipment--
commercial contractors, road maintenance crews, telephone pole installers,
fence builders, landscape companies, or home owners (to name just
a few) -- can make one telephone call to give notice of
their plans to dig in a specific area 48 and sometimes upto 72 hours
prior to any excavation activity.
center then acts as a clearinghouse to inform the owners and operators
of underground facilities in the area identified in the work plan
so that they can go out and mark their facilities (spray paint on
the surface directly above the facility, place flags identifying
the type of underground service).
The person doing the project must wait the specified time during
which the marking of the facilities is accomplished before beginning
the project. Everyone has to cooperate so that the project can be
completed as planned and the underground facilities are marked and
protected during the work.
Energy pipelines are especially concerned about excavation around
a pipeline since the release of petroleum or natural gas can have
One-call programs are organized and operated at the state level
and are generally governed by state law although they are normally
not supported by tax dollars. One-call centers are funded by the
underground facilities in that state, usually on a per call basis.
Some people mistakenly believe that they don't need to contact
a one-call center because they think they can tell the precise location
of a pipeline by drawing a straight line between right-of-way marker
signs. This is a myth for two main reasons:
- Right-of-way markers along a pipeline route or at a grade crossing
only show the approximate location of a pipeline because the right-of-way
they are marking is much wider than the pipeline. Thus, the markers
are not always located precisely over a line. (Nor do the markers
indicate the depth of the line.)
- A pipeline may curve or make an angle underground as it runs
between markers in order to avoid some natural or manmade feature
such as a historical site or another underground facility such
as a television cable.
Using the one-call system when digging around an energy pipeline,
or any other underground feature, is the only way to determine the
true location of a pipeline. Even after the area has been marked,
any digging around the marks should be carefully conducted to precisely
locate the facility.