News & Events

Darin Bird named ELM Elite for April

The ELM Elite winner for April is Darin Bird from Billings, MT, who recently celebrated his 17th anniversary at ELM. Congratulations Darin!

Darin served in the Navy for 6 years as an Electronic Warfare Technician stationed on a Spruance-class destroyer. Thanks to this experience he is knowledgeable about electricity and picked up locating quickly. He says, “We’re using radio frequency, but it works a lot like an electrical circuit.” On a recent ticket Darin saw sparks when he unbonded the cable TV line. Knowing something wasn’t right, he called the electricity provider to get them on site immediately. It turned out that a neutral in the electrical line to the house had gone bad and the cable line had been acting as the neutral and now voltage was flowing through the house. By recognizing the dangerous situation and acting quickly Darin helped prevent a house fire.

Many of Darin’s tickets feature 4 or 5 different utilities, so his order of operations is very important and has been well tuned over his career. He prefers to do gas first as it is standalone and has the smallest chance of bleeding off. Then he does communications, followed by electric, and he finishes by double checking to make sure he has everything accounted for. He credits sticking to his routine with making him not only more accurate but more efficient.

How often and when he double checks his work is also an important factor in his success as a locator. He recalls a ticket early in his career where feeling rushed at the end of a long day led to a near-miss. He says, “It was a long day, I knew I’d been pushing myself pretty hard. I had a big long locate and blasted through it.” Due to the weather, the digging didn’t happen as planned and he got called back to update it. It was only then that he noticed he had missed part of the gas service. Ever since then he takes the time to check his maps one more time before he leaves the job. No matter the size of the locate, or how long the day has been, he knows it’s worth his time to do.

Darin also had a vehicular accident early in his career that taught him an important lesson, don’t let your usual safety standards slip due to a frustrating situation. He recalls being stuck behind a car driving significantly below the speed limit and says, “I was getting a little frustrated and I just happened to glance off to the side, thinking to myself, oh come on, speed up, and when I turned back the car in front of me was stopped. I had no time to respond.” Now he keeps his eyes forward and doesn’t let his frustrations distract him from being a safe driver. Since this accident, Darin has had an excellent driving record which he believes is helped by his experience driving many different types of vehicles himself, from motorcycles to semi-trucks. He says, “I’ve got a lot of experience and different aspects of life. I know every vehicle is different. Every one of them has to be respected differently.”

In his spare time Darin enjoys riding motorcycles, golfing, and bowling. He has been bowling in various leagues for most of life and has even travelled with friends to Las Vegas for a national tournament. He enjoys taking the time off from work to relax and reset but sometimes finds it hard to completely leave locating behind. “I’m walking down the street (in Las Vegas) and I’m seeing yellow marks on the ground, orange marks on the ground. Even when I’m not working, it’s in my mind all the time.”