How Utility Technicians Always Know Where to Dig

 Utility TechnicianUnderground channels are everywhere in the modern world. They supply everything from electricity to gas, water to sewage. With the sheer volume of them right under our feet, repairs can be problematic despite being few and far between. Technicians make use of a very important tool to locate the underground cables without digging: the Buried Line Locator.

Need to Know

In its more than 50 years of use, the Buried Line Locator allowed industries to confidently place their channels underground. Due to the increasing number of underground cables, the risk of collateral damage to nearby lines and people became very likely. With the locator, it is also very avoidable.

Doug Balkman, senior product development engineer for 3M Telecom Systems, says that identifying and excavating only the target line is crucial to safe operations. “In an underground environment, you are dealing with significantly greater distances and complexity, which requires a more powerful transmitter and a more sophisticated receiver,” he explains.

How it Works

The Buried Line Locator works using two parts — a transmitter and a receiver. The transmitter sends an electrical signal along the cable or pipe, while the receiver detects the signal away and underground. The device operator simply has to follow the signal leading to the problematic section of the line.

“You want to start out at the lowest frequency, and if that frequency works, don`t change it,” Metrotech regional manager Jim Grimes says. He clarifies that “lower frequencies seem to bleed over less and stay on the conductor you are attached to better.”

Finding where the cables are buried is one thing, knowing which one needs fixing is another. Once technicians uncover the underground wires, they still need to identify the broken channel. Tools such as electrical circuit tracers make the task of pinpointing the problem line simpler.

Buried channels allow technology to function with minimal risk of tampering. Vandals and elements can cause damage to utility lines above ground. Fixing underground cables may be a challenge, but with locator technology, technicians can safely prolong the lifespan of these critical components to modern living.