The history of Pipes Plus

In 2011, utility owners, locators and North Carolina 811 (NC 811) partnered together to form Pipes Plus (Partners In Protecting Everyone), was conceived to educate the general public about safe digging practices around a multitude of utilities. In the beginning, the goal was simple, set up meetings across North Carolina and show a two-hour presentation that people from the utility industry could attend. The presentation consisted of topics covering what NC 811 is, how utilities are located, excavator safe digging practices and information concerning digging around gas, electric and telecommunication lines.

NC 811 worked closely with the Pipes Plus committee and was responsible for developing the topics covered and presenting the content during the scheduled events. Initially, it consisted of a PowerPoint slideshow accompanied by verbal explanations of the information, interspersed with videos related to each topic. Later, the slideshow was converted to an all narrated video format, so that each section of the training was fully covered with a consistent message. This completely automated the presentation except for the Q&A session at the end.

To make sure the audience was retaining the information covered, in 2015, the Pipes Plus presentation became more interactive with the use of some new technology. Quiz slides were added utilizing Turning Technologies’ response cards. Now the attendees could answer quiz questions, in real-time on screen, between videos. Afterwards, reports could be generated on the presentation’s effectiveness.

Back in 2014, an online training portal was created so that those who could not attend a live meeting would be able to take advantage of the training from work or home. This online, video-based training uses the same videos from the live meetings. The trainee receives an emailed certificate of completion after taking a 70-question exam at the end of the presentation.

The American Public Works Association (APWA) is a supporter of the Pipes Plus program as continuing education. Also, Pipes Plus is an excellent resource for companies across the state to have their employees trained on this material for free. A number of local technical schools have also been approached to incorporate the training into their curricula.

One business, Fred Smith Construction Company, out of Cary, N.C., made it mandatory for its upper management and superintendents to take the online training so they could present supervisors with a certificate. In the span of only two months, over 200 people from Fred Smith Construction Company completed the training. NC 811 recognized the company as its Safe Digging Partner of the month for July 2015. Louis Panzer, NC 811 executive director, presented them with a certificate and thanked them for setting a standard everyone should look up to when training their staff about safe excavation practices.

In 2017 we released the Spanish version of the training series and in 2019 we released the water and sewer module for additional training.