While there are dozens of issues and violations in the joint use world, there are a few we see so often we consider them problems of interest: repeat offenses to which no utility pole owner is immune. This article is the fourth in an ongoing series detailing utility pole issues and the steps it takes to remedy them. Today, we discuss something that might seem like a minor problem, but if not handled properly can result in public complaints and potential injury: damaged, abandonded or broken communication drops.
How does this happen?
Communication drops typically become problematic—i.e. damaged, hanging, draped or lying on the ground—one of two ways.
When an attacher removes equipment from a pole, sometimes pieces and parts are left behind. Unused and unclaimed drops are easy to miss, and without attention from the pole owner, may remain dangling in the wind or coiled next to a pole, impeding pedestrian walkways, creating snags for cars and bicyclists and generally becoming a danger to the public.
Wind and snow can also take down or damage communication drops, rendering them dangerous to passers-by—and it happens often. If you have ever doubted the power that nature has over communications, one needs only turn to reports after the winter storm Cato, a weather event that dumped several feet of snow on the northeastern United States Thanksgiving morning. According to reports available at our time of publishing, more than 400,000 customers were without power—and the ability to cook their holiday turkeys—as a result of the storm. It would be a fair bet that many communication drops quite literally dropped as a result of snow weight that day.
What can be done?
In the field and even out your window right now, dangling and damaged communication drops can be a common sight. As with other maintenance-related issues however, it is a lack of knowledge on the part of the pole owner, and not willingness or ability to fix the problem, that is often the biggest issue. The solution is two-fold:
- Conduct regular field inventories to collect relevant and up-to-date information on pole assets in the field, then fix problems as they are reported.
- Record pole status and maintenance information in an easily updated, online databse that makes researching a pole’s history and projecting future maintenance needs simpler and quicker.
Why fix the problem?
When a communication drop hangs, drapes or simply lays on the ground due to damage or abandonment, it can be a significant concern for utility providers as well as utility consumers. Loose wires can become toys for children, hazards for vehicles, and possible threats to the equipment of other utility suppliers.
Neighborhoods and municipalities often do not look kindly on dangling wires either, considering them eyesores. Best practice here is due diligence—which we have learned, happily spreads. Utility companies should make taking the time to remove and report damaged or abandoned communication drops a priority. This allows you to not only look after the integrity of your own equipment, but also provide a higher standard for surrounding utility providers to aspire to reach. A little extra effort will raise the quality and safety of everyone’s equipment.
READY TO GET STARTED ON A FIX?
Utilizing robust online communication software designed for joint use makes the task easier to manage. A smart, online system such as Alden’s Notify™ gives utility pole owners easy access to field inventory data, and provides clear avenues of communication with attachers and internal service crews. This organized information and transparency is helpful in identifying and rectifying maintenance issues such as missing damaged, broken or abandonded communication drops.