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Public Safety

Safety is an important value at Xcel Energy, and we are committed to the safety of our employees and the public. We want our customers and people who live, work or gather near our facilities to be aware of possible hazards and to respond safely to them. We provide comprehensive outreach programs to promote safe behavior among our customers, communities, emergency responders and third-party workers. Our goal is to prevent accidents that can result in serious injury or death, property damage, costly repairs or fines, and decreased service reliability. Most serious accidents happen because someone directly or indirectly contacts an overhead electric line, digs into an electric or natural gas line, or fails to respond safely to the warning signs of a gas or electric emergency.

Public Safety Index Measures

Our corporate scorecard includes a public safety index measure. Our goal for this index measure was 100, meaning that we need to meet or achieve 100 percent for each target outlined on the index below. While the goal for the entire index is consistently 100 each year, the different targets within the index increase annually.

2013 Public Safety Index Performance
Measure Target Description
Response time to gas emergency calls 70 percent less than 30 minutes To meet this target, our gas emergency responders needed to respond to 70 percent of the gas emergency calls in 30 minutes or less. The clock begins ticking when a call arrives at Customer Care and ends when our responders arrive at the site. In 2013, we responded to 74 percent of gas emergency calls in 30 minutes or less.
Number of inadvertent dig-ins to Xcel Energy’s underground gas or electric service 1.29 per 1,000 locates To meet this target, we must have had less than 1.29 damages for every 1,000 tickets we receive via the states’ one-call centers, which arrange for utilities to locate and mark buried utilities in response to a locate request. In 2013, we had 1.27 damages for every 1,000 locate tickets.
Assessments of the company’s high-pressure gas system 250 HCA miles To meet this target, we must have assessed historical and current integrity of high-pressure natural gas pipeline along 250 miles of high-consequence areas (HCA), measured by the number of people and buildings near a potential impact zone in the event of a pipeline emergency. In 2013, we assessed 387.5 miles of pipeline in HCAs.
Contractor communication 6,000 contractor fulfillment mailings To meet this target, we needed to distribute at least 6,000 safety mailings to businesses whose primary work is tree care or gutter/siding/roof installation. In 2013, we distributed 14,816 safety mailings to at-risk businesses. Learn more about our fulfillment outreach programs.
First responder training Train 300 electric first responders To meet this target, we needed to provide safety training to 300 of Xcel Energy’s first responders for emergencies involving electricity. In 2013, we provided training to 968 of Xcel Energy’s first responders who work closely with the community.

Public Safety Initiatives

We send direct mail to thousands of customers and offer free safety materials through our fulfillment programs and participation with other organizations, as described below. We also offer online safety resources for elementary educators, students and their parents and for third-party workers. Likewise, our Responding to Utility Emergencies online training provides local emergency responders, such as firefighters and law enforcement, with important safety information about situations involving natural gas pipelines and electricity. We also advertise safety information in our communities, use social media sites and regularly safety messages in our bills and electronic newsletters.

We work closely with and have an active leadership role in several national organizations that focus on public safety awareness for electric, natural gas and pipeline safety. In 2013, the American Gas Association recognized several of Xcel Energy’s public safety efforts as industry best practices.

2013 Public Safety Outreach Highlights

Fulfillment Outreach Programs

Our fulfillment programs provide safety information to at-risk groups such as children, third-party workers and emergency responders. We offer free videos and related safety materials, fulfilling requests for these items within a few weeks. Our programs also direct workers and elementary educators—including younger students and their parents—to our e-SMART worker site and our e-SMART kids site where safety information is continuously available.

  • We mailed safety posters to 66,386 businesses with at-risk workers and included an offer for free visor cards and DVDs about working safely near power lines and natural gas pipelines. In response to this offer, we provided more than 44,000 additional pieces of safety information to at-risk workers (excavators, plumbers, general contractors, etc.) to support 1,635 requests. We also emailed additional safety information using “Tips of the Trade” and had several thousand visits to our e-SMART worker website.
  • We mailed safety brochures to more than 25,000 elementary educators, along with samples of free energy safety books they can order. In response to our offer, we placed more than 118,000 pieces of safety material directly into classrooms. These safety materials help educators meet national science education curriculum standards, and the related e-SMART website continues to be a valuable educational resource, as demonstrated by nearly 12,000 website visits in 2013.
  • As noted in the public safety index measures, in 2013 we distributed 14,816 safety mailings to two specific higher at-risk groups—tree workers and gutter, siding and roof installers—to further emphasize the hazards of performing work in areas near energized electric lines. We produced in-house the Tree Worker Safety video program and mailed a free copy of it to all applicable businesses identified in our service areas. We also posted it on YouTube to share with arborists across the United States. We offered workers who install gutters, siding and roofing and use scaffolding in our service areas an industry-best DVD entitled Worker Beware.

Pipeline Safety Collaborative Programs

Through our membership with the national nonprofit Pipeline Association for Public Awareness (PAPA) and our participation in state-specific pipeline associations as well as Minnesota’s Community Awareness Emergency Response (CAER) association, we helped distribute the following materials in states where we have natural gas distribution and transmission pipelines:

  • Excavators
    • PAPA “Excavation Safety Guide, Pipeline Edition” was mailed to nearly 149,090 excavators
    • CAER “Gopher State Newsletter” was mailed to 34,444 excavators
  • Public Officials
    • PAPA “Public Officials Newsletter” was mailed to 19,806 public officials
    • CAER “Public Officials Newsletter” was mailed to 6,644 public officials
  • Emergency Officials
    • PAPA “Pipeline Emergency Response Guide” was mailed to 4,100 emergency response agencies
    • CAER “Emergency Responder” books were provided to 2,101 emergency response agencies attending local meetings
    • Attendance at and sponsorship of many pipeline emergency responder meetings in Colorado, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming provided additional, in-person pipeline safety training to hundreds more emergency responders

For each of the above direct-mail pieces provided within Xcel Energy’s service territories, hundreds of thousands more excavators and thousands more public and emergency officials across the United States received the same industry best practice information. Sharing consistent information nationwide also helps encourage pipeline safety.

Additional Community Outreach

  • We estimate that nearly 20,000 people watched our electricity safety demonstrations at the Minnesota State Fair in 2013.
  • We provided hundreds of electricity and natural gas safety pamphlets at safety events throughout our service territories.
  • We mailed information to 1,083 emergency responder agencies and community officials across our NSPM and NSPW services areas and provided information specific to their regions regarding response to life-threatening and non-life-threatening emergencies, including essential public service restoration.
  • The Xcel Energy sponsored Responding to Utility Emergencies website received 211 visits.
  • Xcel Energy conducts numerous emergency drills each year, including about a dozen gas emergency drills that involve local emergency responders from the communities we serve.

Learn more about customer safety & education.

Disaster Planning

Four crewmembers deliberate at a dig

On a regular basis throughout the year, reliability teams from each of our operating companies assess myriad potential risks—natural, technical and terrorist. These teams carefully consider the consequences of each possible emergency and develop detailed action plans. They then carry out drills to make sure responses to emergencies can be realistically and effectively orchestrated.

Numerous scenarios are developed to walk through emergency procedures and processes. The goal is to identify any gaps or previously unconsidered issues, and make the plans more effective and efficient. The drills are handled the same way that we would handle real emergencies, with virtual situation-room conference calls in which key responders participate from their locations. Drill scenario and scripts are developed over a period of three to four months. Each of the drills are then assessed and rated by our Enterprise Continuity team and the company’s reliability executive.

Seven times a year, we conduct complex and multi-business reliability drills that include participants from federal, state and local regulatory and emergency-management agencies. In at least one drill each year, the scenario is designed to be severe enough to require bringing the Executives on Call (EOC) into the effort. The EOC program ensures that operating company managers handling the emergency response can always reach corporate-level decision makers during an emergency. We built our emergency preparedness program from the ground up starting in 2006.

Learn more about physical and cybersecurity.

Pipeline Safety

Xcel Energy has its own Transmission Integrity Management Program (TIMP) and Distribution Integrity Management Program (DIMP), which each operating company uses to address the specific risks indentified for its area and which the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) mandates. TIMP rules are prescriptive and extensive but can be summarized into several simple points:

  • Know your pipeline assets
  • Understand the threats against your assets
  • Be proactive in addressing the threats against your assets

DIMP rules require operators of distribution pipelines to continually identify and assess risks on their distribution lines, to remediate conditions that present a potential threat to pipeline integrity, and to monitor program effectiveness. Instead of imposing prescriptive requirements for DIMP, PHMSA concluded that requirements for operator-specific programs to manage pipeline system integrity would be more effective given the diversity in distribution systems and the threats to which they may be exposed.

We are committed to having knowledgeable, experienced, trained personnel regularly inspect our pipelines for any potential leaks or anomalies. The design, construction, operation, inspection and maintenance of our operating pipelines are subject to state and federal regulations, including the Congressional Pipeline Inspection, Protection, Enforcement and Safety Act of 2006.

We review publicly available data, that the pipeline industry reports to the PHMSA, with the continued goal of reducing public safety incidents and taking proactive steps to prevent such similar incidents.

Third-party excavation damage continues to be the biggest threat to our natural gas distribution mains. We continue to heavily promote the “Call Before You Dig” campaign that uses the national three-digit number, 8-1-1. We continually reinforce the message to anyone planning to dig near our pipelines the need and importance of always calling 8-1-1 before digging. Since 2008, we have reduced damages to our underground facilities by almost 30 percent. Preventing dig-ins is a corporate goal and is tracked and measured as part of our Public Safety Index.

When building gas pipelines, we consistently meet or exceed national standards for construction and safety and work closely with local emergency responders to ensure there is a safe, coordinated response in the event a pipeline incident should occur.

See our public safety index measures.

Read more about pipeline safety.