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 the 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 makes contact with 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
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.
|Response time to gas emergency calls||26 minutes||To meet this target, the average response time of our total E1 gas emergency calls needed to be 26 minutes or less. The clock begins ticking when a call arrives at Customer Care and ends when our responders arrive at the site. In 2014, our average response time for gas emergency calls was 25 minutes.|
|Nuclear emergency response||95.5%||To meet this target, we needed to perform in a timely and accurate manner during at least 95.5% of all drill, exercise and actual nuclear emergency response opportunities throughout the year. In 2014, we performed timely and accurately to 97.5% of all nuclear emergency response opportunities.|
|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 2014, we had 1.41 damages for every 1,000 locate tickets.|
|Assessments of the company’s high-pressure gas system||220 HCA miles||To meet this target, we must have assessed historical and current integrity along 220 miles of high-pressure natural gas pipeline in high-consequence areas (HCA), which is determined by the number of people and buildings near a potential impact zone in the event of a pipeline emergency. In 2014, we assessed 328 miles of pipeline in HCAs.|
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 share safety information in our communities through traditional advertising, social media sites and our electronic newsletters and billing statements.
We work closely with several national organizations that focus on public safety awareness for electric, natural gas and pipeline safety.
Fulfillment Outreach Programs
Our fulfillment programs provide safety information to targeted, at-risk groups such as children, third-party workers and emergency responders. We offer free videos and related safety materials that address the specific needs of these audiences. Our programs also direct workers and elementary educators—including younger students and their parents—to our e-SMART worker website and our e-SMART kids website, where safety information is continuously available. In 2014, our safety fulfillment efforts achieved the following:
- Xcel Energy sent 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 162,000 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 9,600 website visits in 2014.
- Xcel Energy mailed safety posters to 61,318 businesses with at-risk third-party contractors 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 1,438 requests. We also emailed additional safety information using “tips of the trade” and had several thousand visits to our e-SMART worker website.
- The mailing to third-party contractors also included tree workers and gutter, siding and roofing installers to further emphasize the hazards of performing work in areas near energized electric lines. We offered a Tree Worker Safety video program and an industry-best DVD entitled Worker Beware to workers who install gutters, siding and roofing and use scaffolding in our service areas.
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:
- PAPA Excavation Safety Guide, Pipeline Edition” was mailed to more than 144,000 excavators
- MN CAER Gopher State Newsletter was mailed to 32,119 excavators
- Public Officials
- PAPA Public Officials Newsletter was mailed to 18,009 public officials
- MN CAER Public Officials Newsletter was mailed to 5,774 public officials
- Emergency Officials
- PAPA Pipeline Emergency Response Guide was mailed to 4,366 emergency response agencies
- MN CAER Emergency Responder books were provided to more than 2,700 emergency response agencies
- 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 that Encourages Public Safety
- We conducted a train-the-trainer pilot program for emergency responders in Colorado enabling fire and law enforcement personnel to train their co-workers on safely responding to utility emergencies.
- We estimate that nearly 20,000 people watched our electricity safety demonstrations at the Minnesota State Fair in 2014.
- Xcel Energy provided hundreds of electricity and natural gas safety pamphlets at safety events throughout our service territory.
- We mailed information to 1,312 emergency responder agencies and community officials across our service territory 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 and First Responder Beware websites received 1,348 visits.
- Xcel Energy conducts numerous emergency drills each year, including about a dozen that involve local emergency responders from the communities we serve.
Learn more about customer safety and education.
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 identified on its gas pipelines as required by the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA). TIMP rules are prescriptive and extensive but can be summarized in 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 to 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, participate in benchmarking studies, and engage in peer-to-peer reviews with other utilities with the goal of continuously improving our safety programs in order to reduce public safety incidents and taking proactive steps to prevent such incidents.
Third-party excavation damage remains the biggest threat to our natural gas distribution systems. We continue to heavily promote the Call Before You Dig campaign that uses the national three-digit number, 8-1-1. We also reinforce 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 the damage incident rate per 1,000 facility locates by 24 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.