Fontana Branch Bids Goodbye to Exploding Manholes

Jodi Beuder Precast

Exploding manholes may not sound like a regular occurrence, but they happen more often than many people may realize, posing a huge safety threat and triggering power outages. In the first half of 2018 alone, multiple explosions took place in New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and California.

Prior to that two separate incidents in 2015 left 35,000 Long Beach, California residents without power for several hours, prompting Southern California Edison (SCE) to launch a retrofit project, which began this year. The Fontana Branch of Jensen Precast was quick to join the effort.

The electricity company revised its standards for electric manholes and vaults after a massive inspection and determined nearly 10,000 structures needed replacement covers and restraint hardware.

SCE put out a bid to Oldcastle Precast and Jensen Precast late last year for the first phase of the retrofit project, consisting of 250 structures in Long Beach. In early 2018, Jensen Precast won the $900,000 bid.

In addition to the retrofit, SCE will also require all new manhole and vaults to come with a restraint kit from the precasters.

With knowledge of this new requirement, the team at the Fontana Branch took proactive measures.

“We knew this was going to raise questions with our customers and Edison inspectors so we planned a Lunch and Learn event to get everyone together to go over what is required and what the expectations are” Sales Manager Tom Morales explains. “We wanted an open forum for the contractors to ask questions directly to the Edison engineers who designed the system.”

The event, which took place in March, was a success with roughly 130 guests from SCE, City of Riverside, Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, International Line Builders, Doty Brothers, Arizona Pipeline, and VCI Construction to name a few.

Tom adds, “Edison used this event as a training ground for their inspectors. Our plan was to get out ahead of this new requirement and show the contractors that we are the premier precaster and we are very involved with providing top-notch customer service and high quality product.”

That message seemed to resonate well. In a follow up email, Chip Capella, a senior advisor from one of the companies in attendance praised Jensen Precast for “demonstrating the actions of a real partnership.”

SCE Engineering Manager Todd Engle P.E. also had positive feedback: “On behalf of the SCE team, I want to thank you for setting up the demonstration structures for the vault and manhole cover restraints. We appreciated the opportunity to view the new cover restraints as they will be installed and I thought your setup was very well done. Thank you for keeping safety a top priority and enforcing the use of proper Personal Protective Equipment.”

He ended with, “Thank you also for lunch, the tacos were fabulous!”