When an excavator for MRF Construction (Big50 2002) began digging for a garage addition project, it hit a gas pipe in the street. “There was potential for an explosion,” treasurer and designer Carolin Fast says. The Tacoma, Wash., company reacted quickly by evacuating staff and alerting officials. The utility company shut off the gas to make sure the neighborhood was safe.

President Mike Fast met with the utility crew's foreman and explained that the company hired to mark the pipes had made a mistake. He also sent a letter to the neighbors with an explanation. “We did not look like we were professionals — that's what bothered us the most,” Carolin says.

Within a few months, MRF received a bill of several thousand dollars from the utility company for the pipe repair. Although the pipe break was not MRF's fault, the company's crew didn't have the ticket number used to record the service request. “A lot of times our guys call from their cell phone for utility location,” Carolin says. After receiving the bill, Carolin went through MRF's cell phone records to track down the ticket number through the call time. She could prove the call, so she was able to transfer the bill to the utility location company.

Now, MRF's crew notes all ticket numbers for all calls to that company, and MRF routinely calls for utility location before every job. “We're required to call 48 hours before we do any digging. Even if we are not intending to dig, we still call at the beginning of the project so if something does come up, we don't have to wait 48 hours before we can continue working,” Carolin says.