April is Dig Safe Month – bringing attention to the important issue of safe digging practices around pipelines and other underground infrastructure. This month’s blogs will highlight some of the ways CEPA members work with the public and different industries to keep both people and pipelines safe.
Scratch and sniff cards that smell like natural gas, colouring pages, videos and other interactive tools are teaching children and teens across Canada and the United States how to stay safe around pipelines and other underground utilities. Since 2013, TC Energy’s Youth Energy Safe program has been distributing kits to schools, teachers and other partners to help teach kids how to dig safely and why it’s important.
“At TC Energy safety is a core value, so Youth Energy Safe is about creating that next generation of safety ambassadors,” said Jason Kostiw, TC Energy’s Public Awareness Communications and Marketing Advisor. “The program is not only pipeline focused – it’s about underground utility safety, which includes electrical, utility, gas, internet, water lines, because they’re all critical services we all need.”
The program was updated and modernized in 2019 to make it more customizable and relevant for today’s digital-oriented youth. The kits are like lessons-in-a-box, which can be customized for students as young as eight years old, up to high schoolers.
Teachers and administrators can request the packages, which can be reused several times, for their classrooms. TC Energy also works with safety-oriented organizations like the Progressive Agriculture Foundation, which use the kits at local safety days and community events.
Last year, more than 300 safety days and events were planned, but the pandemic shut most of them down. Still, over the last two years, the Youth Energy Safe program has reached more than 21,000 students across Canada and the United States through partnerships alone. More than 157 kits were also distributed to teachers, schools and other organizations in communities where TC Energy operates.
“It focuses on teaching youth the proper steps to take, and activities that require using your local one call service, whether it’s 811 in the States or Click Before You Dig in Canada,” said Kostiw. “What activities require one-call – the proper steps to do it – how to recognize signs of a pipeline leak – proper steps to take if you suspect a gas leak.”
Youth from not-for-profit organizations, such as Girl Guides and 4-H, can also apply for a $1,000 prize through TC Energy’s Yes Awards. If the organization is planning a digging project like planting trees or building a fence or deck, all they have to do is request a locate through Click Before You Dig or a provincial one-call service three to five business days before the project starts, and then apply online for the grant. A total of $50,000 is up for grabs every year.
“The goal is enhanced promotion of pipeline safety and awareness,” said Jeanette Dame, TC Energy’s Public Awareness Program Manager. “It’s reaching the audience while they’re young. Teaching them how to make a locate request, the importance of making a locate, the consequences of ground disturbance and what that could mean. You get it in front of these kids, and they can take learnings home and educate their friends and family.”
As TC’s Youth Energy Safe website says, “When it comes to staying safe, you’re never too young to learn the basics!” To request a kit, apply for the Yes Awards and download the Youth Energy Safe resources, click here.
Special thanks to TC Energy’s Jason Kostiw (Communications and Marketing Advisor, Public Awareness) and Jeanette Dame (Public Awareness Program Manager) for their input for this article.