Article 10

Beating Trouble to the Punch

Dateline: New Brunswick—In this area of Canada, automated cable pressurization monitoring is a relatively new concept. Prior to the winter of '94, most cable monitoring was accomplished by manually reading resistive pressure transducers, and converting the readings to a pressure equivalent. Richard Raymond and Jim Shaddick are two of the cable repair technicians in charge of pressurization for New Brunswick Telephone. NBTel practices "empowerment," and both Richard and Jim are "do it all" kind of guys, spending their hours on the job doing general cable maintenance, locating leaks, installing pressure equipment, and even engineering offices.

Richard, who has the Moncton Exchange in his area, was part of a team that spent about four years investigating the various options available to upgrade NBTel's cable pressurization monitoring system. Eventually, after doing a field trial with Flow Finders, the team selected the monitoring package offered by System Studies, which included PressureMAP, 289H LSS monitors, Dial-a-Ducers, High Resolution Transducers, and Flow Finders.

NBTel sent Richard, Jim and fellow technician Norman Munro to Santa Cruz for training on all of the new equipment. After completing the class, Richard and Jim returned home and developed Engineering Pressure Plans for their areas, entered monitoring data into PressureMAP, and began installing the outside plant equipment.

In Jim's area, cable pressure is now monitored by both Dial-a-Ducers and 289H monitors. With the help of Richard and Norman, he has set up the PressureMAP System to send alarms for his offices directly to his alphanumeric pager. Jim says that with PressureMAP calling his pager, he can sometimes intercept trouble before it starts.

High Flow Alarms
One of his most memorable alarms came from the Rothesay Exchange. In this office, there are two B-meter Panels, each monitored by a Dual (Pressure/Flow) Transducer. PressureMAP sent an alarm to cable repairman Kevin Graham on his pager indicating that there was a high flow at one of the B-meter panels. Jim also got an alarm on his pager, and called Kevin to make sure he had received the same alarm.

Kevin knew that some contractors were working on the sewer in an area near his cable route. He received the alarm at 12 noon, and by 12:15 he had located the contractors who were busily back filling the trench. The contractor had used an automatic jackhammer and ripped a hole in a 2700 pair stalpeth cable and one PCM (trunk) cable. These zero leaks caused a high flow at the B-meter panel which generated the alarm. As Jim points out, before PressureMAP was installed the damage may have gone completely undetected until the cables went wet.

The use of an alphanumeric pager with PressureMAP and his quick reaction enabled Kevin to not only find the leak, but catch the contractors who otherwise might not have reported the damage imagine that!) This type of response would have been impossible with any other type of pressurization monitor.

Dryer Failures
In the Simonds exchange in St. John, there are two B-meter panels that are being monitored by High Resolution Dual Transducers wired to a 289H LSS. Recently, PressureMAP again proved its worth by providing early warning of an office air dryer failure. PressureMAP sent an alarm to Norm Munro's pager indicating that there was a zero flow condition at one of the office panels. Norm and Jim responded to the alarm, checked the panel and ended up replacing the compressor. (Jim says that this type of message indicates dryer trouble and alerts them to bring a compressor with them to the CO, which they did.)

More recently, NBTel was able to avoid loosing another small office because the office was equipped with a Dial-a-Ducer that reported B-meter panel pressure and flow readings to PressureMAP. When the Bayside office's air dryer failed, Jim received a page and responded immediately. The technicians in this office appeared to have corrected the problem, but Jim was paged with a new alarm by PressureMAP a day later. This second alarm convinced everyone that the office air dryer did, in fact, need replacement. It also proved the value of the software in being able to regenerate valid alarms quickly.

Richard's Turn
Richard also has a few stories on how PressureMAP has given him a jump on trouble. One of the more interesting ones was the time in the Moncton CO when PressureMAP sent multiple alarms to Richard's pager indicating a drop in source pipe pressure. When he checked it out, he found that the main dryer had failed—but not enough to cause the contactor monitoring the dryer to go into alarm. The backup dryer, which was set at a lower output pressure, was doing all the work. However, PressureMAP alarmed for a lower output pressure to the panels, and alerted Richard of a problem before the back-up dryer burned up.

Note: PressureMAP will send an alarm if the source pipe pressure drops 1.0 PSI in under 24 hours.

A Favorable Report
With PressureMAP calling their pagers, the versatile cable maintenance technicians in New Brunswick are able to respond to alarms quickly enough to make a difference. Knowing that NBTel has a vigilant pressure monitoring system also helps to keep contractors honest. It's more important than ever to keep their duct structure in good shape because NBTel is placing a lot of fiber and coax cable these days.

Jim is also finding that—even at this stage in the development of a monitoring program—PressureMAP is helping him track splicing activity and enabling him to follow up on any maintenance-related alarms. He knows who's been out there and where they have been working.

Jim and Richard's opinion that it was an excellent management decision to buy PressureMAP and associated equipment is backed up by the numbers. New Brunswick Tel has been able to reduce their customer report rate from 3.5 to 2.08 over the past six months. Jim feels that much of this improvement can be attributed to the help provided by the PressureMAP software and the new monitoring devices that are being installed in the field. Company-wide, there has also been a renewed emphasis on the importance of air pressure and a better understanding of what's required to build a good system and make it work.

Due, in part, to the progress being made, Richard was recently given the go-ahead to work pressure full time. He was also given a Christmas deadline for installing all of his area's equipment. Remarkably, he still finds time to give presentations to other areas, emphasizing how PressureMAP can be used to improve the customer report rate and overall system quality.

It is possible for the customer report rate to come down even further, but achieving the lower rate becomes increasingly more expensive. It would require having to pressurize everything—right now only the major feeder and trunk cables are pressurized. While Jim thinks this would be great for overall cable protection, he doesn't see it happening. What he'd like to concentrate on is getting some more air pipe installed in his area and using his new personal computer to log into PressureMAP remotely. Until recently, he had to drive to the Lancaster office in St. John to access the MAP-486 computer directly.

Jim, Richard and Norm, with the help of the other technicians in the area, have accomplished a great deal in a very short time. By taking charge of PressureMAP, they have increased NBTel's pressure system quality as well as overall customer satisfaction. System Studies would like to acknowledge their efforts and congratulate them for a job well done.

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