Monday, May 11, 2009

That familiar feeling of head repeatedly striking brick wall

I had a call from Sydney Water this morning - they were following up an item that I logged via their web site last week. It concerned a small utility cabinet outside a school.

Try as I might, I couldn't convince the person who rang me that the utility cabinet belonged to them - they couldn't find it on their asset management system. According to their system, the only asset they had in the vicinity was a pipe under the footpath, with nothing on the surface.

I told them I was going to call up Google Streetview, and they said they were already on it. They'd found a cabinet matching my description, but could not confirm that it belonged to them.

Luckily, I had a photo from last year of the cabinet when it was hit previously. I called up my photo, which had a much higher resolution than the blurry Google shot, and could see that it had a brass plaque on it reading "Sydney Water - phone 132 090".

Even then, they were still not convinced that the cabinet was theirs. I had to tell them three times that the plaque had their name and number on it.

I then found another number, which looked like the asset number, and read that to them. At that point, they started to admit that it might belong to Sydney Water. I then read out another plaque stating that it had high voltage inside it - aha! They admitted it was probably feeding a booster pump underground, and in that case, they'd get their contractor onto it.


On the positive side, at least they rang me directly as soon as they had a question, rather than just ignoring my report as being "too hard". They also promised to take action as soon as I convinced them that it was their asset.

The only negative I can think of is that without my own photo of the cabinet, I would have been hamstrung.

It just goes to show how "blind" these utilities can be. I would have thought that the answer would be to contact a crew that works in the area and ask them to do a drive-by at their convenience to check it out. If the crew knew the area well, they might say, "Yes, we know that cabinet - and it's not in the system. We've tried several times to get it put into the GIS without result". A bit of internal communication might have eliminated the need to call me at all.

Then again, my experience of these big government utilities is that they are hopeless at talking amongst themselves. Blind as well as mute. If you have something to tell them, get used to the idea of shouting, and shouting repeatedly. It's like trying to tell your deaf old grandmother something.

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