The program to identify every utility pole in Plaquemine was a consequence of Hurricane Gustav, which slammed into Louisiana in 2008 destroying more than 300 of the 3200 power poles in this quaint three square-mile city.
“I walked around with a FEMA representative after the storm and tried to describe where the poles used to be and what was on them,” said Frank Mott, assistant director of utilities, City of Plaquemine Utilities Department. “Before cutting us a check, however, FEMA wanted proof of what existed before the storm, and we didn't have that. We were relying on memory to know what used to be there.”
As a result, Plaquemine's Utility Department has now deployed a computerized utility pole asset identification program, which assigns each pole its own number. Plaquemine Utility workers went around the community attaching four- to six-inch durable tags to every pole.
The pole tags purchased from William Frick & Company are made from co-extruded polyethylene with maximum resistance to ultraviolet rays. Each character is black engraved on orange or yellow. The tags are also available in yellow characters on a black background, and white on red, as well as custom colors.
“We have utility customers that have used these tags for decades in harsh climates with heavy UV exposure and found them to be extremely weather resistant,” said Sherry Weber, business development director for William Frick & Company. “Specially formulated of outdoor durable color-stabilized materials, these tags last up to 30 years.”
In addition to marking every utility pole with a Frick identification tag, Plaquemine enters the number of the pole into a computer along with the pole's GPS location, photograph and an itemization of every wire, transformer, bell, bolt, light and other asset attached to the pole.
With the new system, when Plaquemine utility customers call to report loss of service or a street light out, they can provide the dispatcher with the pole's exact location by citing its number. Plaquemine's linemen can then call up that specific pole on their laptops and obtain not only a photograph of the pole but a list of all the pole's attached assets -- including manufacturer serial numbers. The system also lets the linemen know which vendors' wires run on the pole, its GPS location, when the pole was installed, and other relevant information.
Mott believes the new system saves times and money for the City of Plaquemine. Linemen used to have to drive out and locate the pole, see what assets it supports, drive back to the utility's yard to pick up the correct replacement parts, and then drive back to the job site. Linemen now go to the utility's yard and pick up all the parts they're likely to need for a repair before heading out to the pole.
“Our lineman saves from 30 minutes to an hour per call by not having to first go to the pole, then to the yard, then back to the pole,” said Mott. “We do five to 25 pole repairs a day so this adds up to a substantial time savings, which reduces the need for overtime.”
Other benefits include customer service and efficiency. Customers get their power restored faster and linemen working the poles can have damage calculations sent to FEMA in days instead of weeks or months. Plus, customers and the police are using the Frick pole markers to call in the location of incidents, street lights that need to be replaced and for other location-related reasons.
However, the benefit Mott believes to be most significant is the improvement in safety.
“Having a highly visible Frick tag on every pole vastly improves safety,” Mott said. “Now the linemen know precisely which pole they're going to work on. By feeding that number into the computer before handling the lines, they are assured they're killing the right circuit. This significantly raises confidence in our safety procedures.”
Frick's high-performing engraved tags are brightly colored and easy to view, simple to install and long-lasting. They also are flexible so they fit especially well against wood poles. The back of the tags come with a special film that keeps wood preservatives from leeching through and discoloring the tag.
About William Frick & Company
A leading producer of customized identification products like labels, decals, signs and utility markers, William Frick & Company has been supplying pole tags to utility companies for more than 25 years. ISO 9001-2008 certified, the company is a trusted supplier to the energy and telecom industries, oil and gas companies, governments and others needing labeling solutions. For more information about William Frick & Company product offerings, procurement options, service and solutions, call 1.847.918.3700, or visit the company's Web site at www.fricknet.com.
William Frick & Company