Under the Surface with Joe Zink: New to SUE

Under the Surface with Joe Zink: New to SUE

Joe Zink, SUE Locator ll

It was a year and a half ago that I first held the relatively small piece of equipment that could save a client millions of dollars. That was my first day on the job as a Subsurface Utility Engineer.

I started in the Subsurface Utility Engineering (SUE) industry with no experience; what I did know was it was our responsibility to diminish damaged utilities and injuries on construction sites due to mismarked or unmarked underground utilities. Just like every new job, there have been challenges. Although similar to completing a jigsaw puzzle, completing the challenge instills a sense of pride. The opportunities presented to me since becoming a SUE Locator at UPI have proven I made the right career change and have only just begun my trajectory to becoming one of the best in the industry.

 Quality Over Quantity

While most utility locators begin their career in the public sector, I am grateful I started mine on the private side with UPI. We have a commitment to quality above all else, not driven by a quota to complete as many tickets as possible in a day. We handle each project with the same level of importance, so our clients are always getting exactly what they need. Starting on the private side also presents more growth opportunities at a faster pace. I have been able to quickly advance in my career and am already transitioning to spending time in the office connecting on the front-end with clients.

The Equipment is Only as Good as the Locator Handling It

Performing test pits in Richmond, VA

We work with top-of-the-line equipment in order to detect and map underground utilities. But ultimately, accurate and quality mapping is up to the locator. Misinformation on job sites and undetectable utilities are common, so problem solving is critical to successfully completing the job. Accepting that not everything is locatable was the hardest part for me, but learning how to effectively troubleshoot has taught me how to put all the puzzle pieces together. For example, I’ve gotten familiar with finding challenging utilities through records research and resourceful solutions to trace utilities, such as running fish tape through PVC to locate the line. It’s imperative to never get lazy with your work; laziness leads to mistakes. Take your time and make sure you are confident in what you’re doing.

View from the Field

I love being in the field and the time I get to spend outdoors and will continue to work in the field a few days a week. My boots have been on the ground of some of the biggest federal facilities in the region, to include the CIA Headquarters, Andrews Air Force Base, Quantico, Indian Head Naval Base and MLK Memorial. Our team has even mapped underground utilities in Spain at Naval Base Rota. My best memory to date is standing on the side of the runway at Andrews Air Force Base while watching the Fighter Jets take off 50 yards away. SUE gives you experiences many civilians don’t get and provides variety to keep you on your toes since no two jobs are the same.

Learn from the Best to Become One of the Best

Representing UPI at a career fair

The SUE industry is growing rapidly as builders and engineers truly recognize the value and security provided by having a private locator map and designate utilities. There is no better time than right now to get involved. Though a relatively young industry, there are SUE locators that have been around for 10+ years. Those are the people you want coaching you as you learn the ins and outs of locating. I’m fortunate to have started with the UPI team that brings this echelon of experience. It is a great feeling to be proud of the work we do and be part of large-scale projects that provide places for people to experience life to its fullest.

Lessons Learned: Utility Designation Overseas

Lessons Learned: Utility Designation Overseas

by Dimitri Payne

The prospect of flying halfway around the world for a project involving utility designation might seem like an exciting but nearly impossible task. When the opportunity came around for my firm, Utility Professionals Inc (UPI), I jumped at the chance. The challenges I tackled made me a better utility designator. I picked up a few lessons learned that I hope can do the same for you.

Base Naval de Rota is nestled on the western coast of Spain in the city of Rota, Cadiz. Home to the U.S. Naval Forces Europe, the base is the largest American military community in Spain, housing more than 3,000 U.S. Navy sailors, Marines and their families. Since it was established in 1953, the base is now in the process of updating and improving their infrastructure to support their growing population, which was how my firm got involved. UPI was brought on board in early 2019 to provide utility designation services to help create mapping for the expansion of the base.

The challenges of providing utility designation services overseas including traveling with equipment, lack of existing plans, and even wildlife did not stop us from completing our mission. At the end of our stint, the experience and hospitality we received will ever stay within our minds and provides the excitement to one day return. Here is how we dealt with some of the more difficult challenges that came along with utility designation overseas.

Shop Local

Traveling is expensive. Traveling with equipment, supplies and essentials, or shipping to the hotel, was not feasible, and so our team had to create a solution to ensure we had the tools needed to accomplish the work. We enlisted the help of a local hardware store that we visited and got many of our typical tools. Not all the tools we have here in the states were available, so in some cases we had to improvise. The tool I missed the most was the paint stick to hold the paint. I had to hand paint each mark for over 100 acres!

Enlist Allies

Working in older areas, we always look for plans and as-builts to help us in our prospecting of utilities, giving us an edge to know what to expect. When visiting the local department, we found that a staff member working on the base for over 30 years provided better information than the plans recovered. With an impeccable memory and many great stories, he helped us find out where undetectable utilities lie. 

Respect Native Wildlife

Nothing prepared us for the biggest challenge — wildlife.  Many of the sandy and palm tree-lined areas included dense shrubs that needed to be cleared. While planning, we could not remove any shrubs unless an environmentalist confirmed that the area was outside the homes of an endangered species, the chameleon. To keep the chameleons’ habitats safe, we omitted mapping those portions of the site.

Give Back

Utility locating services brought UPI to Rota, however we got the opportunity to experience much more. Instead of disposing of tools and used and unused PPE, we donated everything to the Self-Help Program, which capitalizes on the skill levels and manpower of Navy personnel to perform minor maintenance and saves the Navy money.

The experience we gained, both externally and internally, made us understand and appreciate the success of our mission. We look forward to completing more projects overseas in 2020, including projects in Africa and Germany, where we will apply the lessons we learned in Spain and tackle new, exciting challenges.

Originally published in dp-PRO March 2020 edition.

Dimitri Payne Promoted to Utility Coordinator

Dimitri Payne Promoted to Utility Coordinator

Utility Professionals Inc (UPI) is excited to share Dimitri Payne has been promoted to Utility Coordinator.

Dimitri has over sixteen years of experience in the subsurface utility designating and locating industry throughout the states of Virginia, Maryland + the Washington, DC Metro area. With that experience, Dimitri brings vast technical knowledge, as well strong teamwork and leadership skills. Over the past sixteen years, Dimitri has become well versed in all aspects of subsurface utility engineering (SUE) including ground penetrating radar (GPR), test hole excavation + and utility designating and mapping.  Dimitri also has a background in quality control/quality assurance, damage investigations, field supervision + and project management. Additionally, he has international SUE experience, as he was the senior lead technician on UPI’s most notable project to date at Rota Naval Base in Rota, Spain.

In his new role, Dimitri will be responsible for partnering with UPI’s clients on projects throughout the Washington Metropolitan area and providing excellent customer service. Additionally, he will manage the UPI field crew and coordinate schedules. With his extensive background in utility designation, he is a perfect fit for this role. We look forward to Dimitri’s future with UPI.

Leewood Health and Rehab Center – Case Study

Case Study
Client: Scott-Long Construction
Project: Leewood Health and Rehab Center – Annandale, VA

Scott-Long Construction did their due diligence at their new construction site by calling the free utility locating service, as required. The free service went to the job site and marked where the underground public utilities would be found. Scott-Long opted to also have UPI come to the site to verify all the utilities were marked, when it was discovered that the public utilities had been mismarked.

Of special importance, UPI found a utility line that veered to the right into a sidewalk where Scott-Long had plans to start digging. If the general contractor hadn’t called UPI to do a quality review of the site, they would have faced:

  • Costs to fix the utility line that would have been struck
  • Redesign fees to account for the utility line
  • Schedule delays to the project; the time to repair a damaged utility line always varies

UPI saved Scott-Long time, money, and project delays – a goal we are committed to accomplishing for all firms in charge of site work. Email us to get our crews out on your next project.

UPI Launches New Brand – Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

UPI Launches New Brand

Prince William, VA – April 30, 2018 – UPI (Utility Professionals Inc) is pleased to announce the launch of our new brand, logo, and a renovated website. In its fourth year of business, UPI is a well-established subsurface utility engineering (SUE) firm. The brand is intended to match the firm’s credibility.

Each aspect of the new branding symbolizes how business is conducted at UPI. The bright colors and distinguished fonts represent liveliness, energy, and clarity—the same approach taken with all projects.

“I am confident our updated presence will help better connect our clients and contacts with our company, strengthening relationships and fostering continued growth,” says Jeff Smith, President of UPI.

To view the new look of UPI, visit www.utilityprofessionalsinc.com.

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About UPI

UPI (Utility Professionals Inc) was founded in 2014 and is a thriving utility locating business serving the Virginia, Maryland, and DC area. We offer Subsurface Utility Engineering (SUE), utility designation, and utility mapping of underground utilities. UPI also performs records research prior to any utility mapping or designating. We use innovative technologies and equipment to detect the presence of subsurface utilities and mark the horizontal position on the ground surface. Our services follow the standard of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) C-I 38-02, Standard Guidelines for the Collection and Depiction of Existing Subsurface Utility Data.

Contact: Christopher Fillmore, LS | Vice President | chrisfillmore@utilpro-inc.com | (703) 334-5657