Friday, August 28, 2015


Hi, been a while since I posted anything.  This will be a long one but bear with me.  There's going to be helpful stuff in here.

Lets talk about utilities.  I mean, the kind that provide you with phone, internet and lights.  In my new job as a utilities location technician, I have to work with these things every day.  I have to go out and find them before some idiot contractor with a backhoe does.  When I find them, I mark them with paint and flags.  At that point, unless you're Flash Sanitation, who is a special kind of stupid, you hand dig within 4 feet of the marks.

Let's get familiar with some of the equipment used.  We'll start with telephone equipment.

This is what is known as a phone ped.  Inside this ped are the cables that feed your neighborhood with telephone service and the service drops that go to your house.  They are almost always marked with a telephone company logo.  They come in a few different sizes and there are older peds that are square and have metal cabinets.

There will be a follow up to this post on things like crossboxes and v-rad cabinets.  But I'll cover those in a different post.

Now, on to your cable TV/Internet service.

These are 3 common types of Cable peds.  The same thing goes for these as with telephone peds.  The main distribution cables for your neighborhood come in to these then there's a device inside called a tap.  Your service drop to your house comes from the tap.  The big square one in the bottom picture is the housing for an amplifier as well.  Want to see inside?  Check it out.
The square silver box like thing at the top is the amplifier.  The 2 large black cables at the bottom are the distribution cables.  The third one doesn't count because it's been cut.  The orange cables are the ones that go to your house.  They're plugged in to the tap.

Now for the electric.  This is the one you only hit once.

This is a single phase, pad mounted transformer.  A 3 phase is a whole lot bigger and quite a bit more dangerous.  If you ever see one of these open, call your local power company immediately.

This is a cover plate for an electric company underground ped.  Never open one of these and if you see one open, call the power company immediately.

Now, let's take a look at this.

Ok, I see the look on your face from here.  WTF?  You're talking about utilities and you put up a picture of a bush?  What's wrong with you?  What say we take a closer look at this bush.

Well, will you look at that.  A single phase transformer in the bush.  I don't know about your power company but Consumers Energy up here in Michigan, labels all of their transformers to say not to plant within 6 feet of a transformer.

Oh look, a phone ped.

And a cable ped.  All that makes this one damn expensive bush.

See, here's some of the problems.  I know these things aren't pretty but we rely on them every day.  Most people don't think about where their utilities come from or how they get to the house.  All they care about is that they're there when they want to use them.  Many people, especially in some of the "high end" subdivisions, landscape around this equipment because they're not pretty and they want a pretty yard.  Now, you may not believe this but, give 20 years or so of growth and the roots of your bushes are going to get all tangled up with the underground goodies.  Sooner or later...POP.  And guess what?  You, Mr. or Miss homeowner, will be footing the bill for the repair which could easily get up into the thousands of dollars range.  Maybe a hell of a lot more if there happens to be a fiber optic line down there.

Next issue is repair.  How are the repair people going to work with this equipment when it's surrounded by your landscaping?   Some of the utility companies around here will just trample and break your shrubbery and not even give a nod to the Knights that say Ni.  And you know what?  It's their equipment and they need to get to it.

Next issue.  You want to make some improvements around the old homestead but some of them require digging.  Guess what?  You need to call Miss Dig (811 if you wondered).  That means a visit from me, or someone like me.  We need to hook up to this stuff to find the underground utilities.  I promise you, I WILL destroy your landscaping to access the equipment.  There's a side issue to this as well. I am very fortunate not to have any allergies but some people cannot say that.  My fellow technicians are all told on the first day of training that if the have an insect sting allergy to make sure they carry their epi pen.  You see, wasps and hornets love peds.  They're secluded, they're dry and they're warm.  Perfect spot to build a nest.  If the ped is out in the open, we can see them flitting about before we get there and take appropriate precautions or unleash the chemical weapons and kill the little bastards before they get us.  If the ped is surrounded by your landscaping, we won't know that they're there until it's a lot too late.  I've also chased more than a few snakes out of peds.  Usually, we slap or kick the ped a few times before we open it.  Give it a knock to see if anyone's home.  With a ped surrounded by vegetation, we may not have that option.  This is potentially life threatening for someone with severe allergies.

So, the bottom line of this is, quite simply, we know they're ugly but they're also very necessary and once in a while, someone has to get into them.  Don't plant a bunch of stuff around them.  Keep the area clear and well trimmed so we can get at them when necessary.

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