Welcome to Culver Natural Gas Currents—your monthly e-news source for industry product information, including the latest educational and promotional items, trends, values, tips, stories, and events.
This month, learn about a new application for virtual reality technology, how the landscape of customer relationships is changing, the scope of safety training materials for field workers, and the importance of age appropriate education materials for children.
Culver Company’s Products Group can help you select or create the right educational and promotional products for your outreach efforts. Be sure to check out Culver Natural Gas Currents each month for your industry product news.
Virtual reality (VR), first introduced into the computer game industry in the 1990s, may very well find its way into training protocols for natural gas utilities. This type of technology creates an interactive virtual environment which enables user interaction. In addition to entertainment, it has been used for medicine and the military, where real-life situations can be replicated for educational purposes.
A Midwest electric and natural gas utility has become the first in the nation to test virtual reality as part of its safety training. In May, the utility announced a partnership with Vectorform, a corporation that creates digital experiences for a wide array of industries, including some of the world’s largest brands. The technology will allow employees to learn how to deal with “high-consequence” emergency situations without the threat of suffering injuries or damaging property. It will be used as a hands-on tool in addition to existing training procedures.
It is common for natural gas field workers to be faced with potentially hazardous situations, many of which are high-consequence scenarios that cannot be replicated in the real world. Placing workers in a simulated, dangerous environment can help them become accustomed to the stress and risk involved. It can also help them understand how they react in a crisis and to optimize their decision-making skills.
As with most video games, this system uses goggles and controllers to turn an ordinary room into a 360-degree, interactive virtual environment with motion tracking. The utility will use it to create specific field scenarios, including performing gas line shutoffs, deactivating downed power lines, and working at extreme heights. A single kit costs less than $1,000 but is currently only available to developers, like Vectorform. Customization to a particular industry’s requirements will drive variation in price.
The fact that workers are not actually exposed to danger or real levels of stress and anxiety will, as many expect, make this type of training very effective. Although some have suggested there may be drawbacks—that with overuse, workers may become desensitized to the very things that keep them safe. Whatever the verdict, it’s a given that utilities around the country will be monitoring the success of this new program, which could be “the next big thing” in safety training.
For many utilities, engaging the customer on an individualized basis can be challenging. Smart grid data, emerging technologies, and a rapidly changing industry can make it difficult to know where to begin. In addition, industry leaders are realizing that the face of their customer has changed and that they need to try harder to proactively engage with them in order to build trust, customer satisfaction, and ultimately, long-term retention.
Simply stated, millennials are the new face of today’s customer—and they will be for a long time to come. Now America’s largest generation, their choices and behaviors have shaped many industries, and they are now influencing the utility industry.
Unlike prior generations, millennials use technology differently and more frequently. As a result, they are natural seekers of information. They easily turn to the internet as a means to manage their lives. They are also used to regular communication from service providers—whether it’s Amazon, Uber, or Starbucks, they have come to expect a high level of service, flexibility of choice, and personalization.
Large utilities are no longer ignoring this trend and are paving the way. Making smart meter data available through web portals, apps, and social media enables a truly customer-centric experience. The proactive nature of text alerts on subjects from higher-than-average bills to outage restoration estimates changes the tone of the interaction and works to build trust and customer satisfaction. Some utilities are even pursuing third-party partnerships to give their customer the ultimate control in energy-use management through a completely connected home-energy system that links the energy use of major home appliances with telecom and entertainment offerings.
While these innovations provide seemingly endless opportunities to create valuable interactions with the customer, educational programs that include community outreach remain a critical part of the equation. Those utilities that provide education to residents through energy audits, school programs, and community events demonstrate a commitment to the community that residents appreciate. Not all utility companies have the resources to implement the full scope of technology and community involvement, but certainly, an integrated approach at any level will deepen your relationship with residents, building a foundation to thrive in today’s new customer-centric energy landscape.
The leading cause of accidents in both transmission and distribution systems is damage that’s caused by digging near existing pipelines. This excavation damage accounts for roughly 60 percent of incidents and can, unfortunately, have high consequences. As a result, the industry continues to innovate to find new ways to ensure that field technicians and contractors are properly prepared. To supplement their existing training program, one Midwest gas and electric utility is testing virtual reality technology to simulate hands-on experience before they get into the field (see story above). Such innovations can add a new dimension to training, especially when it comes to addressing different learning styles—yet studies continue to show that following basic safety guidelines can prevent accidents and save lives. It’s essential that field technicians and contractors are reminded about safety precautions on the job site and have the proper protocols at their fingertips when an emergency occurs.
Culver’s Worker Beware® product line was developed with this in mind. Brochures, wallet cards, visor cards, and slide guides all deliver critical information in a simple, graphic format that workers can carry with them on the job. Available in English or Spanish, any Worker Beware product will reinforce training procedures and serve as a quick reference in case of emergency.
Available in English and Spanish, this six-panel brochure explains basic safety procedures for dealing with buried electric and natural gas lines. The pamphlet describes how to prevent accidents and what to do if a gas or electric line is hit.
This compact reference guide includes a chart of locator mark colors, as well as emergency contact information for the local utility.
Sized to fit on a truck’s sun visor, this card provides emergency response information. One side of the card provides an outline of safety guidelines for working around power and natural gas lines. The other side lists the steps to take if a line is accidentally struck. It is available in English and Spanish.
Small enough to fit into a glove compartment, this comprehensive guide provides a safety checklist to prevent overhead and underground utility contacts. It also emphasizes the importance of calling 811 before digging and lists the Compressed Gas Association guidelines for marking dig areas. RP1162 gas leak warning signs are included, as well. The slide guide offers instruction about what to do if a gas line is contacted or a leak occurs. Like many of Culver’s other safety materials, it is available in English and Spanish.
Our Worker Beware suite of safety products offers various levels of safety information—wallet and visor cards to more comprehensive booklets, brochures, slide guides, and even videos that are broken down into specific training modules, like Digging & Excavating and Cranes & Heavy Equipment, all of which can be customized to include your company name, logo, and contact information. For additional information about any of our natural gas safety materials, call us at 800-428-5837, email email@example.com, or visit www.culverco.com/catalog.
For elementary school-aged children, natural gas can be a mysterious thing. It’s invisible and odorless, so many youngsters have no idea where it comes from, how it’s distributed or how it’s used, and, most importantly, how to stay safe around it.
At this age, most children are either tactile or visual learners. With this in mind, Culver developed a series of learning materials built specifically for these learning styles. The combination of compelling visuals and fun activities help teachers and parents simplify what can often be an abstract concept.
For example, Culver’s DVD and corresponding booklet Natural Gas: Your Invisible Friend will capture student attention when they see other children their age delivering this all important safety message. Studies confirm that children respond to important messages more readily when they’re presented by their peers.
Adding science-based experiments, activities, and word games to a visual tool, such as a DVD or booklet, will help reinforce the visual message. The fun and creativity of actually “doing science” taps into a child’s natural curiosity and helps the child begin to understand basic concepts and how they apply to the world around them.
Ensuring school-age children understand the critical nature of your safety message, while also working to teach them about basic gas science, pipeline awareness, and safe digging, means an integrated, multi-format approach will work best. Consider using a combination of video, print, science activities, and sensory tools, such as scratch and sniff or even a flip action bookmark, to help deliver your public safety message in the classroom. A combination will create more excitement about your subject matter.
Natural Gas: Your Invisible Friend (#37620)
This 16-page color booklet explains where natural gas comes from, how it’s used, and why it's important to be careful around it. Using puzzles, math exercises, decoding activities, and real-life stories, the booklet enables students to learn natural gas basics and safety, including leak recognition and response.
This 14-minute video entertains by having children report on the fundamental principles of natural gas and gas safety. If there’s one major takeaway from this video, it’s “smell, leave, and tell,” instructing kids to leave the house at once if they smell gas, and then get an adult to call the local utility. To preview our videos, visit www.culverco.com/videos.
Natural Gas Safety World™ (#36425)
Through experiments, word games, and activities, this eight-page booklet communicates essential messages about respecting appliances, the importance of leaving an area where a gas leak is suspected, and the danger of placing flammable materials near a gas furnace. A teacher’s guide is also available for download.
Natural Gas Safety World™ Video DVD (#91929)
Divided into two three-minute segments, this DVD features children who share the basics of natural gas formation, distribution, and safety, including safe digging. Gas leak, recognition, and response are also highlighted. Teachers’ materials are included on a separate DVD. To preview our videos, visit www.culverco.com/videos.
Created using lenticular printing technology, young learners will be diverted by the animated motion as one image morphs into another with a slight hand movement. Simple, fun imagery, paired with a simple message, emphasizes the most important one of all: In the event of a gas leak, get out of the house.
A simple yet effective sensory tool, this scratch and sniff card helps kids experience what a natural gas leak smells like, understand the warning signs of a gas leak, and what to do when one occurs.
Any of our products can be customized to include your company name, logo, and contact information. For additional information about natural gas outreach materials, give us a call at 800-428-5837, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.culverco.com/catalog.