Palo Alto’s natural gas system employees were recognized recently by the American Public Gas Association (APGA) who presented the City with its 2009 National Safety Award. This award acknowledged the superior efforts by the City of Palo Alto Utilities (CPAU) employees to ensure the safety of the community and the integrity of the gas system in Palo Alto. APGA is the not-for-profit nationwide association for publicly- and community-owned gas utilities and represents over 700 members in 36 states.
The APGA Safety Award recognizes public gas utilities that have the lowest number of accident and injury hours compared to the number of hours employees worked on the system. Utilities are recognized based on their rankings in each hours worked category.
Safety is the natural gas industry's top priority. Serious accidents on the natural gas delivery system are rare, but CPAU is dedicated to making them obsolete. CPAU’s safety record achievement reflects its commitment to improving the quality of the utility infrastructure and enhancing the safety of everyone in the community.
“We have people who work in the field and office every day, and who may be called in at night on emergency response, facing tough challenges as they strive to ensure our customer’s safety. I’m delighted to see these unsung heroes get national recognition for a job well done,” commented Val Fong, Director of Utilities for the City.
CPAU’s ongoing safety program has multiple components, including:
* Proactive leak surveys conducted to detect and repair damage before problems develop. During 2009, CPAU completed its annual walking survey to check for leaks of all 19,311 gas service lines in the City. In addition, an annual mobile survey of all 205 miles of City gas main pipes was conducted. These surveys found only 75 main and 142 service leaks, all of which are already repaired or will be repaired within the timelines required by the federal Department of Transportation. Of the City’s 23,502 installed gas meters, fewer than 2.5% needed to be leak-tested and repaired.
* Customer Call Response System through which CPAU field representatives were dispatched to handle over 7,000 utilities service requests in 2009. About 45% of these requests were regarding natural gas issues most of which concerned pilot light re-lights and new gas meter installations. Customer Service Representatives, who handle over 36,380 calls per year, are trained to answer natural gas safety questions, and dispatchers are available 24/7 to respond to customers’ safety concerns when they smell gas.
* Promoting gas safety in the community. Stemming from the City’s general concern for the safety of its residents, businesses, contractors and neighboring communities, CPAU sends out multiple gas safety outreach pieces each year and conducts an annual telephone survey to see whether customers understand what to do to stay safe around natural gas. The most recent annual telephone survey, completed earlier this month, included a randomly selected statistical sample of about 7,500 CPAU customers plus an equal number of non-customers for a total of about 15,000 calls. The results from these annual surveys guide the development of natural gas safety education programs for the upcoming year. More information is available on the gas safety survey news item at www.cityofpaloalto.org/utilities
* Uniform improvements for CPAU field crews. Adopted earlier this year, the new khaki/tan color uniforms are made of flame-resistant material for those crews who face potential electric arc flash hazards, and they keep workers cooler while performing difficult physical work. Workers also wear mandated yellow vests, so they remain highly visible and identifiable to the public.
“Safety is everyone’s responsibility. The City of Palo Alto is grateful both to its customers and employees for working together to make sure that we are all safe,” adds Fong.
For more information about safety programs at CPAU, visit the “Utilities Safety Information” link on the Utilities Department home page at www.cityofpaloalto.org/utilities