By Aimee M. Milks
After 45 years of business, Dig Safely New York, Inc. (formerly known as UFPO) knows you have to think outside the box to reach people with the same message about the convenience and safety of the One-Call system. So, when Ed Pozzuolo of Rochester Gas and Electric (RG&E) wanted to place 811 stickers on his company’s gas meters, Dig Safely New York ran with the idea.
After being presented with the concept, Kevin Hopper, Operations Manager at Dig Safely New York, knew this was their opportunity to reinvent the 811 sticker and add awareness and marketing components that have not been used before on a meter.
“The 811 stickers on meters are wonderful. But how effective are they if a person doesn’t know what 811 is?” Hopper said.
The collective effort amongst Hopper and Pozzuolo led to a Dig Safely New York branded sticker, which includes the Dig Safely New York logo, “Call 811 before you dig” message, the Dig Safely New York website (www.digsafelynewyork.com), and a QR code that when scanned will lead the device directly to the website to gather more information. In addition, the stickers have the message “Caution Gas Line Buried Below.”
“I wanted the sticker to be informational and useful for home and property owners that maybe have never heard of Dig Safely New York or the Call 811 message,” explained Hopper. “Ed’s idea was instrumental in producing the end result, which now is being utilized by several utility partners.”
Pozzuolo, a retired three-year board member of the Dig Safely New York Board of Directors and Manager of Regional Operations at RG&E, had been responsible for damage prevention at RG&E from 1997 through his retirement in 2014. Thanks to his efforts, RG&E, a sister company with NYSEG (New York State Electric & Gas), purchased 367,000 stickers to place on the outside gas meters located in the nine-county region centered on the RG&E and NYSEG Gas Franchise territories.
The sticker message on the gas meters is not only meant to be seen directly by the homeowner, but by any contractor or excavator that is hired by that home/property owner.
“I have always tried to come up with new outreach opportunities to educate and market damage prevention,” said Pozzuolo. “Hopefully these stickers will be a supplemental message for homeowners, as well as private contractors. The idea is to get all the utility companies on-board with these stickers and use them as a marketing opportunity to increase the familiarity with how to prevent damages to underground facilities.”
The need to deliver information to home and property owners is in part due to the rise in DIY (Do-It-Yourself). In the 21st century, DIY is influencing a range of categories, including food, fashion, event planning and, most of all, home improvement. This mainstream-movement has been spurred by the economic downturn (as DIY is cheaper than alternatives), as well as the Internet, causing a minority target-market (homeowners) for One-Call centers (811) to surge over the last decade. Additionally, the ever-expanding and aging environment of the underground infrastructure has increased the need for education, outreach, and training tools used by One-Call centers. Because the depth of utility lines can vary for a number of reasons, including erosion, previous digging projects, and uneven surfaces, assuming the location and depth of a utility line is risky.
Along with those purchased by RG&E/NYSEG, Enbridge St. Lawrence Gas Company has also procured 20,000 stickers to place on gas meters in its territory, which spans approximately 785 square miles through St. Lawrence County and a portion of Lewis County.
“We are hoping that by giving these customers easy access to this information, the number of calls from homeowners, and private contractors and landscape companies will increase significantly,” Hopper said. “In return, the number of accidents due to a ‘no call’ should decrease, creating safer digging environments for these communities.”
Currently in Dig Safely New York’s service area, which is all of New York State except New York City and Long Island, approximately 25 percent of damages to underground utilities reported are due to failure to call 811. By calling 811 (a free service) at least two working days (but no more than 10 working days) in advance, a person reduces their chances of digging into a buried utility line to less than one percent.
Aimee M. Milks is the Marketing/Public Relations Coordinator for Dig Safely New York, Inc. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org