Arkansas Utility Protection Services
The contract locating business began in Arkansas several years ago when utilities began to seek out opportunities to outsource actual locations of their underground lines. To fill this void, Arkansas Utility Protection Services (ARKUPS) was founded in 1998 as a utility location service that locates, identifies and marks underground utilities before any excavation. What differentiates ARKUPS from other utility location services is the fact that the company is a nonprofit organization. “We exist purely for the sake of damage prevention in the state of Arkansas,” says Darrell Boggs, CEO of ARKUPS. “We simply go out and locate the utilities.” ARKUPS currently upholds contracts with 75 utility members throughout the state of Arkansas.
ARKUPS is an organization that has been built on the demand for quality contract locating. “Back in the early ‘90s contract locating was a service that was scarce in real quality work,” Boggs explains. “ARKUPS was derived from the utilities in the state approaching our parent company, Arkansas One Call (AOC), and suggesting that if they would front an organization to provide a quality service they would enter into some long-term contracts that will allow it to stay in business. That’s how ARKUPS was started.”
Although ARKUPS has one central office in Conway, Arkansas, the company maintains a staff of 148 employees, many of which work throughout the entire state. “We have people working in every county throughout the state,” says Boggs. “Generally those people work from home and out of company vehicles.”
A talented team
By ensuring quality location of its partners’ underground facilities, ARKUPS accurately represents and marks where the utilities lay underground based on a marking on top of the ground where it is visible to a building contractor. Before any excavation is done on any site in the state of Arkansas, the contractor is required by law to contact AOC.
From that point AOC releases the notice of excavation to either the contract locator or to the utility affected by that particular geographic site.
“What often happens is there will be multiple utility lines under one site, such as a water line, gas line and phone line,” says Boggs. “Depending on which utilities self-locate and which ones hire contractor locators, AOC will either contact the utility directly or the contractor.”
The process of utility locating consists of utilizing a Ditch Witch tool called UtiliGuard. The handheld device connects to a utility point above ground and proceeds to push a signal underground to locate the facility. “The people that we have in the field are extremely good at what they do because they have to be,” Boggs explains.
“If a contractor is digging and they hit a facility where the mark was not correct, then we assume the liability for those damages. Also, if they hit a gas line that was not marked properly, it’s extremely dangerous for not only the contractor but for the entire community.”
The field staff for ARKUPS is well-trained and adept to the technological aspect of the work. Using a geographic information system (GIS), the filed locators are able to view drawings and maps of where all utility lines should be located directly from a laptop. “They then go out and start the process of hooking up to the facilities and locating the lines,” says Boggs. “Our staff has to be very tech-savvy not only with the equipment but with handling all of the data that is transmitted wirelessly.”
Numerous options for strategic partners
ARKUPS also provides a service to its partners called the Strategic Watch and Excavator Assistance Program (SWEAP). The company’s utility partners have the option to have ARKUPS damage prevention specialists work with the excavator to expose their facility. This service is utilized especially for high profile lines.
Another survey option is the Design Associate Membership. This program applies to project designers as well as engineering and surveying firms that work with ARKUPS and AOC on survey requests that include utility partners. For design associate members, once ARKUPS receives a survey request, an ARKUPS field representative will go to the site and contact the member with the proposed number of hours necessary to complete the markings, the utilities that will be marked and a time frame to complete the markings.
With a strong construction and excavating industry in Arkansas, ARKUPS remains busy year-round. “The industry is booming now,” says Boggs. “We invest a lot in training our people because we need solid workers to keep up with the demand.” By staying current with updated technology, Arkansas Utility Protection Services remains a go-to service for utility contract locating.
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