Insights > Borne Receives Vic Weston Award
Borne Receives Vic Weston Award
Louisianans “know what’s below” thanks to forward-thinking, damage prevention pioneers like Robert Borne, Entergy gas and compliance manager.
But Borne will downplay his role in helping create a standardized program for locating underground utilities in Louisiana. Humble by nature, he’ll only say he played a small part in what three decades ago was a daunting task to decrease damage to utilities, increase job productivity and, ultimately, save lives.
“At the time, there was a movement to get a dig law passed in Louisiana. It was truly a collaborative effort involving many, many interested parties,” Borne said. “I’m proud to have played a role in helping advocate for — as well as help craft language for — the Louisiana Damage Prevention Law. Call Before You Dig is a benefit to all.”
Other pioneers included David Frey, Louisiana One Call executive director, and Vic Weston, who has had a storied career in the construction industry. Both know Borne well as he currently chairs the Louisiana One Call Public Awareness Committee.
“Robert’s been part of damage prevention ever since I can remember and even helped bring the Damage Prevention Summit to Louisiana,” Frey said.
At this year’s summit, an annual and competitive event to help further awareness of safe digging, Frey and others recognized Borne as being the recipient of the inaugural Vic Weston Award. The award, Frey said, was given to Borne for his many contributions to damage prevention and gas distribution.
Pictured, at left, is Robert Borne, Entergy gas safety and compliance manager, standing with David Raymond of Atmos Energy and chair of the Louisiana Damage Prevention Summit.
“Robert’s a valued employee of Entergy and he’s a valued individual in the industry,” Weston said.
A BENEFIT TO ALL
One of the drivers behind creation of The Dig Law was a 1976 pipeline tragedy that killed several people in Cartwright, Louisiana. The accident, Frey said, was used to show lawmakers the importance of passing a dig law in Louisiana.
A Louisiana Dig Law Committee was formed in the mid ‘80s, with Dewey Lytle and Tom McBride representing Gulf States Utilities. Borne and Kyle Todd, a former Gulf States Utilities engineer, supported Lytle and McBride in crafting technical language for the bill.
It took a few tweaks in the language and a few tries with state lawmakers before it passed, but “it’s one of the best pieces of legislation that I’ve been involved with and one that I think is good for all folks, excavators as well as facility owners,” said Ken Naquin, Louisiana Associated General Contractors CEO.
Pictured, from left, are Vic Weston; Robert Borne, Entergy gas safety and compliance manager; and David Frey, Louisiana One Call executive director.
The Louisiana Underground Utility and Facility Damage Prevention Law was signed into law on July 26, 1988. It has been refined over three decades thanks to the Dig Law Advisory Committee.
Some changes, for example, have been related to enforcement while others clarified technical language when “modern ingenuity brought us into the future,” Weston said. Technology, he said, has not only warranted changes to strengthen the Dig Law but has also made work safer for diggers and facility owners alike.
The Dig Law, Frey added, necessitated the incorporation of the non-profit Louisiana One Call Center, formally known as Dial One Time To Inform Everyone, or DOTTIE. Louisiana One Call has headquarters in Baton Rouge and takes thousands of locate requests daily.
Today, Frey said, we Know What’s Below after calling 811 and a locator marks the approximate location of underground utilities.
The public awareness committee is seeking ways to expand the Louisiana 811 brand by targeting specific stakeholders, including excavators, contractors, homeowners and even the next generation, Borne said.
“We’re thinking long-term. The goal is to not only reach those currently in the workforce, but also those using a shovel for the first time,” said Borne.
The public awareness committee, Borne said, is also considering forming regional nonprofits called “Damage Prevention Councils” to expand public awareness efforts locally. Louisiana One Call, he said, would help facilitate regional initiatives and oversee the brand statewide.
As for the next generation, Borne and other committee members would like to make the slogan “811 – Know What’s Below. Call Before you Dig” as second nature to young people as the “Click It or Ticket” campaign.
“If we can introduce the 811 slogan early and often to our children, whether it be through a cast of cartoon characters, messaging in coloring books or presentations at schools, then calling before you dig will become as common as putting a seatbelt on. It might prevent the next service disruption and, most importantly, save lives,” Borne said.