On Sept. 9, 2010, a 30-foot section of natural gas pipeline located in San Bruno, Calif., and maintained by Pacific Gas and Electric exploded. The blast killed eight people and destroyed nearly five times as many homes.
Since then, state regulators have asked the utility company to produce documentation regarding the pressure levels on all of its lines by March 15. As the San Francisco Chronicle reports, to do that the company must "search through 1.25 million pipeline records in 20 field offices." And because many of these records are in hard copy form in boxes, the effort is proving to be more difficult and requiring more time and money than anyone thought it would.
In a letter to the public utility commission, PG&E's VP for regulatory relations, Brian Cherry, indicated the company had put together a "still growing" team of "engineers, estimators, mappers, information experts and managers"-not to mention the support of the document storage company brought in to search scores of boxes of records. Even still, the company says it will take more than six weeks to complete the task.
It's hard to believe that a company as large as PG&E is still relying on paper records in the 21st Century. I guess some industries are slower to adopt technology than others. But the fact remains that records management and e-discovery technology are becoming necessities to do business today-regardless of industry. As mechanical engineer Richard Golomb told the Chronicle:
Boy, is this going to be a lesson for the rest of the industry. Get your records in order.
Failing to do so is negligence, at best.