Distribution, Gas, Markets, Technology

Log on before you dig

Dial Before You Dig (DBYD) has been established in Australia for over 20 years. It is the national referral service for information on underground pipes and cables. Before excavating, a user lodges an enquiry with DBYD, giving details of the location, and DBYD sends that information onto the underground infrastructure owners. The infrastructure owner sends plans back to the excavator directly.

Technological advances

DBYD is the essential first step in safe excavation. In the early days it was a very simple service with a small number of operators taking calls and the fax machine figuring prominently for both the lodging of enquiries and the delivery of plans.

Today over 80 per cent of all DBYD enquiries are lodged using the organisation’s online service. Over 600,000 enquiries are lodged nationally each year.

Using efficient mapping software and technology, users of the service can easily locate and detail their excavation site and submit an enquiry to DBYD. Using street addresses, co-ordinates and street directory grids, users can bring up a map of their dig site and then, using a range of mapping tools, detail exactly where they plan to work.

There have been numerous changes and upgrades to the online service in recent years and the result is a system that can be accessed and utilised quickly and easily.

Mapping updates are regular and accurate. Six-monthly updates ensure new roads and subdivisions are added to the DBYD system enabling users to lodge enquiries across all parts of Australia.

Members of DBYD include electricity, gas, water and telecommunications companies as well as owners of other underground infrastructure.

Developments in their in-house geographic information system (GIS)systems have enabled many of them to respond very efficiently to enquiries. They can now receive the enquiry information from DBYD, extract the relevant information provided and reply with plans via email sometimes in a matter of minutes. If not minutes, these automated systems mean responses to enquirers are regularly dispatched in a couple of hours.

All in all, DBYD systems today are a far cry from the days of individuals picking plans from utility archives and posting or faxing them out to expectant excavators.

Future improvements to the DBYD service for excavators include the introduction of mobile phone technology meaning enquires can be lodged onsite without the need for a laptop.

There is no doubt that there have been vast improvements in the DBYD service over the years, and it is now easier than ever to lodge an enquiry and receive fast and accurate information from Australia’s underground asset owners.

With the ever increasing amount of pipes and cables in the ground and the increased impact of damaging these assets it is vital that the service continues to evolve and utilise the latest mapping and GIS based technology to improve the experience for users of the service.

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