History and Background

“On Tuesday, July 8, 1986, a quiet neighborhood in Mounds View, Minnesota, was roused from its slumber when a wall of fire roared down that street. A mother and her six-year old daughter, shocked by the noise and obviously frightened,  opened their door, stepped outside; and were incinerated.  Mailboxes melted. Trees wilted. The road buckled. A third woman was severely injured. Over a quarter of a million dollars in property damage was caused. The origin of the fire: a hazardous liquid pipeline running through this neighborhood.”  Congressman James Oberstar (8th District) presented this chilling account of the Mounds View accident when he testified before the National Transportation Safety Board.

Introducing Minnesota's One Call Center

As a result of that horrific incident in Mounds View, the Minnesota Legislature undertook a study of pipeline safety and third party damages.  Chief among the study’s findings was the recommendation that Minnesota enact comprehensive damage prevention legislation.  This resulted in the passage of State Statutes Chapter 216D in 1987. The legislation, co-sponsored by Representatives Daniel Knuth, Dave Bishop and Senator Steve Novak, required the establishment of a state-wide “one call”  center to receive notices of intent to excavate from any person engaged in excavation activity. All persons who engaged in most forms of excavation were required to notify the call center two business days prior to the start of their work. The call center would in turn notify underground facility operators in the area of the excavation.

Minnesota Statutes 216D required the Commissioner of Public Safety to approve the formation of a non-profit corporation for the provision of the call center services prior to September 1, 1987.  Gopher State One Call was formed and was formally approved by the Commissioner of Public Safety in 1987.  Gopher State One Call has always been  governed by a volunteer board of about 20 directors, representing  facility operators, excavators and other persons eligible to participate in the One Call Center. The only permanent board seat designated by the legislation is reserved for the Director of the Minnesota Office of Pipeline Safety; a position subsequently merged with State Fire Marshall at a later date. With the formation of the original Board of Directors, Bill Barbeau, Jackie Carlson, Tom Humanson, Art Jackson, Eldon Johnson, Roger Kiffmeyer, Adam Kramer, Roy Larson, Roger McBride, John Metz, Jim Moehnke, Doug Olson, Clarance Ranallo, Arlen Renstad, Rich Sandahl, Mike Styba and Tony Werner; Gopher State One Call was born.

The initial Board developed all of the policies and direction that much of which remains as guiding principles today.  GSOC accepted its first locate request on October 1, 1988. By the end its first year of operation, GSOC had handled over 900,000 incoming requests.

Shortly after the initial start-up, the Board of Directors initiated a Public Relations and Education Campaign. The goal was to conduct a multi-pronged outreach program that would reach all potential excavators in Minnesota, including homeowners, with the “Call Before You Dig” message.  At a time when many state’s one-call centers chose to de-emphasize outreach to homeowners and other “casual” or one-time excavators, GSOC’s Board recognized the important role this group played in preventing damages.  Radio advertising, print media and opportunities for “one-on-one” contact served as the cornerstones of this program.

Safety Ambassadors

Since then, the Public Relations & Education Campaign has grown from one to two full time employees.  These “safety ambassadors” work closely with, and receive great assistance from, the Minnesota Office of Pipeline Safety, the facility owners, and a variety of local coordinating councils and professional associations.  One of their most important tasks is to travel the state to meet with a wide variety of excavators groups and conduct safety training in the form of damage prevention seminars and specifically crafted safety presentations.  These efforts at personal contact are a year-round mission, and many readers may have noted GSOC’s presence at the Minnesota State Fair, where people have been known to stand in line to receive a promotional yardstick imprinted with GSOC’s phone number and website. Farmfest, in southwest Minnesota and one of the largest agriculturally based and attended venues in the nation, has evolved into an important event for GSOC’s education message of excavation safety. And in a more urban setting, hundreds of thousands of families attend the annual Home & Garden Show in Minneapolis. Partnering with GSOC at “The Big One” are many of Minnesota’s facility operators who graciously provide talented staff members to help distribute GSOC’s educational hand-outs and spread the “Dig Safely” message to young and not-so-young alike. 

The story of GSOC’s history is also one of an ongoing effort to manage its responsibility and improving its users’ GSOC experience.  Since the center opened, Minnesotans in ever-increasing numbers are calling before they dig. In fact, Minnesota  receives a higher percentage of homeowner and “casual” excavation notifications than any other state in the United States.  GSOC thanks the public for this support in improving damage prevention for all people digging in Minnesota, professional excavator and casual user alike.

Website Ticket Submissions

Excavator access to GSOC has changed since it began in 1988.  Originally, contact between excavators and the one call center was only by telephone. Soon this expanded into fax and direct dedicated terminal communications.  As the Web morphed into a viable business communications tool, GSOC expanded into web based ticket entry in 2004.  In 2006, GSOC became the first one call center in the United States to offer web ticket entry for homeowners and casual users.  A unique feature of this new causal user system was GSOC’s insistence that the system not use technical “jargon” and instead rely on terms familiar to the user.

The acceptance and subsequent utilization of internet usage by Minnesota’s facility operators and professional and homeowner excavators alike has introduced new vistas of opportunity for GSOC and further benefits for the excavation community. Today, over 65% of all locate requests received from excavators by GSOC originate from internet users.