Summer has come to an end. Schools are in session, fall sports are well underway, and we look forward to the coming cooler days filled with fall festivities. Unfortunately, some days are also filled with wildfires, hurricanes, flooding, and other disasters in some regions of the country. Luckily, we have an extraordinary group of emergency professionals that respond to these various disasters, referred to as “first responders.” First responders have been a prominent topic in the news lately, especially with Hurricane Ian bearing down on the state of Florida and projected to turn over the eastern coast of the US as we speak.
In September, also known as “National Emergency Preparedness Month, there has been quite a bit of coverage relating to the 9/11 first responders who brought their sacrifice to the forefront of our screens and minds. These professionals keep us safe and protected, and, in a very real way, they keep us alive. The praise, gratitude, and admiration they receive are certainly well-deserved. But I want to also bring attention to another group of professionals I call the “hidden responders.”
A NETWORK OF UNSEEN YET VITAL UTILITIES
When I started in the waterworks industry, my boss used a term I had never heard before to describe the vast network of utilities that operate underground and behind the scenes. He called this network “the hidden city.”
This web of waterworks, gas, electric, fiber optic, and other utility lines operates with mind-boggling efficiency and consistency. For the most part, it operates without a passing thought from the average person about the incredible system in place to allow the kitchen faucet to flow, the toilet to flush, the heat to kick on, or our cell phones to charge. “Out of Sight, Out of Mind” applies to this vast, largely unseen network.
This extensive infrastructure of underground utilities also needs attention and maintenance. A primarily unnoticed group of professionals does the installation, maintenance, and repairs. If a water main breaks on Christmas eve, the hidden responders are there to fix it in short order and get your shower running again.
If a hydrant needs a repair or an upgrade, the hidden responders are there to ensure the water will flow when the firefighters demand it. If a massive storm knocks out power and communications to thousands, the hidden responders are there to restore power to hospitals, police stations, and emergency management headquarters.
ALWAYS ON CALL
The hidden responders are called to serve at all hours of the day or night, in all seasons, rain or shine. And then there’s the safety aspect of the job. Many times, such as after an earthquake, severe storm, or unnatural disaster, these folks must enter the danger zone long before first responders to make the scene safe. They often face the hazards of gushing water, hissing gas, and sparking power lines.
When making repairs, you may have them knock on your door or leave a note to tell you the water, gas, or electricity will be shut off while they work. Trenches and holes will need to be dug. Parts and machinery will need to be obtained. It may take a little while. Don’t be frustrated or annoyed. Be grateful that they are there to ensure you have the life-sustaining necessities you don’t even have to think about.
Did you know?
525 McWane Poles' Ductile iron utility poles withstood winds of 180 mph and were used for Hurricane Irma power restoration. Watch this video to see the destruction and dangers our hidden responders face, both underground and overhead. (link: https://youtu.be/-wnqEtG1kRE)
CALL BEFORE YOU DIG
Are you planning a project around your home or business that requires you to dig underground? Remember the millions of miles of utilities that lay just under your feet. Whether you are installing a mailbox, planting a tree, or building a deck, be sure to Call 811.
Your call alerts utilities of your plans to dig and lets utilities mark approximate locations of underground utility lines. This can protect you from serious injury/death or property damage and prevents interruption of your utility service.
LET’S GIVE THANKS
When you wash the clothes or bathe your kids with warm water, water your prize-winning tomatoes, settle down to watch your favorite sitcom, or catch up on your computer, remember the system that allows you to do those things conveniently. It’s there underground...Hidden.
Our nation has begun recognizing the hidden responders who keep our massive utility system running safely, smoothly, and efficiently. Special days have been set aside to acknowledge their efforts, such as Water Professionals Appreciation Day, which falls on a date designated by your state, or National Lineman’s Appreciation Day in mid-April. But you don’t have to wait to show your gratitude. Take a quick moment to send a note to your local utility or even give thumbs up to these folks in the field because even a firefighter needs a hero!
Need Assistance with Your Waterworks Project?
If you have any questions regarding your water or wastewater infrastructure project, be sure to reach out to your local McWane Ductile representative. We have team members who've managed small and large water utility systems, served in engineering consulting firms, and bring decades of experience in solving field issues involving pipeline construction and operation. From design to submittal to installation, we strive to provide education and assistance to water professionals throughout the water and wastewater industry.