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Pipeline Safety: Take The Next Step With Public Awareness Programs for Pipeline Operators

Public Awareness programs for pipeline operators have historically been limited by a lack of engagement with stakeholders. Now, there is an opportunity to digitize Public Awareness programs so that operators can improve engagement and take the next step in supporting pipeline safety.

Public Awareness is an important piece of Stakeholder Engagement within a Pipeline Safety Management System (Pipeline SMS). However, this is still a work in progress throughout the industry because current methods of communicating with the public and incorporating feedback into operations has proven to be ineffective.

Public Awareness has traditionally been a “check-the-box” for compliance exercise without measuring engagement. Now, operators are seeing the value of advancing Stakeholder Engagement through two-way communication. This includes ensuring that any communication within a Public Awareness campaign is messaged correctly, tracked, and measured, plus relevant feedback is implemented into pipeline operations to help meet safety objectives.

We will further explain why an online Public Awareness program is the ideal approach to increase engagement, support the overall Pipeline SMS, and gather valuable input that will help you operate safer in support of people, communities, and the environment.

Digitizing Public Awareness Programs for Pipeline Operators

In a recent edition of the Pipeliners Podcast, Sheila Howard of P.I. Confluence discussed the benefits of digitizing Public Awareness and the steps involved in the process. We encourage you to listen to the podcast to understand how to bring your Public Awareness program online in conjunction with your current program to enhance the value of the program.

Most notably, operators have traditionally relied on paper mailings, brochures, postcards, or other means of notification to tell the public and other stakeholders about special projects, day-to-day pipeline operations in their area, and general pipeline safety. However, with the use of these methods, there is no reliable means of knowing whether the information was received, if the people who did receive the information actually read it, and, most importantly, whether or not it was understood.

Through a digital approach, operators can ensure that all communications within a Public Awareness campaign are correctly targeted with measurements of who received it, who read it, and — if associated with a brief questionnaire — who understood it. This way, notifications turn into two-way communication. Some of the ways to take the next step include the following:

  • Send postcards with a QR Code for recipients to scan on their smartphone and visit a website with information and a survey.
  • Post all messaging online for targeted access by stakeholders.
  • Track the number of times each message was actually viewed / read.
  • Automatically link to a short questionnaire to gauge understanding.
  • Use online calendars to schedule community meetings.

These are the building blocks of engaging with the public online. Analysis of the information gained through this process supports the ability of improved messaging to help position you to take the next step creating effective campaigns targeting additional stakeholder groups.

4 Stakeholders to Include in Your Public Awareness Campaign

The goal of Public Awareness is to make the public aware of the pipelines in their area, what constitutes safe behavior, and what their role may be in the event of an incident. This applies to each of these various stakeholders:

  • General Public
  • Excavators
  • Emergency Responders
  • Public Officials

Following the same gameplan targeting the general public, your operation can enhance communication with other stakeholders such as excavators digging near your pipeline assets, fire stations and other first responders in each local community, and government officials that are obligated to protect the well-being of their citizens.

For example, you can survey various emergency responders in a community and gather their feedback to create alignment around how to support incident response:

  • Do we need to schedule pipeline-specific mock exercises?
  • What is your range of coverage?
  • What equipment do you have to respond to a potential incident?
  • Have you been trained in emergency response for pipelines?
  • Do you have a copy of our emergency response plan?

It is easier and more efficient to gather this critical information online versus allocating time and resources trying to manually collect this information.

The key is having a tool to support the messaging, delivery, tracking, and analysis of surveys in your Public Awareness program, plus a means to incorporate feedback into pipeline operations to support the overall Pipeline SMS. This is where we can provide value to your operation through the enhancement of your program in support of pipeline safety.

Utilize our Web-Based Tools to Support Public Awareness

In our conversations with operators, we have found that some operators are attempting to develop online solutions for Public Awareness in-house.

Meanwhile, other operators have already started down the path of utilizing third-party online survey tools. However, these basic, online tools lack specific capability for pipeline operators.

That’s why we developed Program Stakeholder Engagement Communications (pSEc), a web-based platform that allows each operator to optimize communication by proactively engaging with stakeholders.

  • Improved messaging: Advance beyond cookie-cutter, stereotypical surveys by asking the right questions in the right way.
  • Specific targeting: Identify the right stakeholders you need to communicate with.
  • Local targeting: Set up geographic, role-based, or domain-based communication.
  • Measurement of Understanding: Use simple, message-specific, short questionnaires to determine how many of the key takeaways were retained.
  • Utilize KPIs: Track the results using our Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) dashboard.
  • Run Reports: Measure the responses in a format tailored to your specifications.
  • Route the findings: Capture suggestions, build feedback loops with stakeholders, and send feedback throughout the operation.
  • Guide next steps: Utilize the findings to provide direction for continuous improvement.

To improve outreach as part of your Public Awareness program, we encourage you to find out more about our pSEc tool. We can help you take the next step from paper methods or basic survey tools to robust digital communication that will elevate your PSMS and help you meet safety objectives.

– To schedule a demo of pSEc, contact us today. Let’s discuss how we are actively supporting Public Awareness programs for pipeline operators through the use of our tool.


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