APGA Goal Program

By now, all APGA members should have written public awareness plans. APGA has developed a free model plan if you still need one. A new requirement is that each utility assess how effective its public education efforts are in communicating important natural gas safety information to customers and the public. Your plan must state how this effectiveness assessment will be accomplished and explain why the process will produce a statistically-valid measure of the level of gas safety knowledge of customers and non-customers living near distribution lines. You can do it yourself, or …

Let APGA do it for you!

APGA is pleased to offer APGA GOAL™ (Gas Overall Awareness Level), a nationwide program to assess the public’s gas safety knowledge utilizing state-of-the-art automated telephone polling technology. Participating utilities will receive a description of the evaluation process and its statistical basis to insert into their written plans and an annual report on the results of the polling, both within their service area as well as nationwide. Participants can choose from four different levels of sampling, from the bare minimum polled once every four years to polling all customers each year. It costs just 29 cents per call (49 cents for non APGA members).

When you sign up for the GOAL program, not only will you receive statistically valid information about the public awareness efforts of your system, you will also be able to compare your results to the results from other systems around the country that have participated in GOAL. In March 2007 the GOAL program entered into its second year of phone surveying with over 400,000 calls completed and covering every size gas system. Even if you were not able to join in on the first year, it is not too late to join this tested and proven program now.

To join, complete the enrollment form and mail or fax back to APGA indicating which program level you want. We will call you to complete the enrollment.

APGA GOAL Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is APGA GOAL?

GOAL stands for Gas Overall Awareness Level. It measures the effectiveness of a participating utility’s efforts to educate customers and non-customers living near gas lines about gas safety. Such effectiveness assessments are required by new pipeline safety regulations.

How does it work?

Systems that choose to participate in GOAL will be contacted by Gatesman+Dave to get information on the approximate geographic boundaries of the utility’s service area. An automated telephone polling system will call a random sample of residences in this area and record the response to a series of gas safety questions. The survey takes less than 5 minutes to complete. Each participating utility then receives a report summarizing the answers to each question of its customers and non-customers as well as nationwide for all GOAL participants. This report must be kept by the utility to demonstrate compliance with the regulation.

What does it cost?

29 cents per call for members (49 cents for non-members).

How many calls will be made?

That depends on the program level you choose. At minimum we must call enough customers and non-customers living near your gas lines to get a statistical sample. For systems with 7,000 meters or fewer that means 100 % of customers plus an equal number of non-customers. For systems over 7,000 meters the number of calls to achieve a statistical sample is less than 100% of customers and never exceeds 8,000 calls to customers and 8,000 calls t non-customers. Some participating utilities have opted to call more than the minimum, however. In the GOAL sign up brochure there are tables that list the number of calls and cost for various sized utilities for each of the 4 program levels.

Do we pay for all calls or just completed calls?

All calls. The participating utilities pay a fixed rate based on the number of calls required to achieve a statistical sample based on the number of meters the utility serves. Built into this number is the assumption that 19 out of 20 calls will fail to get a completed survey. There is ample experience with both automated and live telephone polling that only 5-10% of calls are completed, We have chosen the lower end of the scale to ensure valid results. In our field test 6% of calls were completed.

When do I pay?

Payment for the survey must be received by APGA before the survey is conducted. If you select a level that surveys just once every 4 years you will be billed for ¼ of the survey cost in each of the 4 years in the survey cycle. Payments go directly to APGA. Payment is for all calls, not just those successfully completed. See FAQ below on “Won’t some calls fail?”

What is the difference between the 4 levels (Gold, Silver, Bronze and Minimum)?

The minimum program is the minimum required by the rule – polling a statistical sample of customers and non-customers once every 4 years. The other levels include more frequent polling and/or larger sample sizes:

  • Gold Standard Program: 100% of your customers are surveyed in year one, and 25% of your customers (or a statistically valid sample, whichever is larger) are surveyed each year for four years. A statistical sample of non-customers is also polled each year.
  • Silver Standard Program: 100% of your customers are surveyed in year one, and a statistically valid sample is surveyed each year for four years. A statistical sample of non-customers is also polled each year.
  • Bronze Standard Program: A statistically valid sample is surveyed in year one and during each of the following four years. A statistical sample of non-customers is also polled each year.
  • Minimum Standard Program: A statistically valid sample is called in year one and in one of the next four years. A statistical sample of non-customers is also polled in the same year your customers are polled.

NOTE: Because a statistically valid sample is 100% of customers for systems with less than 7,000 meters, there is no difference between the Gold, Silver and Bronze programs for systems under 7,000 meters – 100% of customers are called each year.

Why would a system choose to do more than the minimum?

Most systems that signed up for GOAL thus far have chosen one of the higher sampling levels. Reasons stated for doing more than the minimum include 1) having documentation that an attempt was made to call all customers and 2) to find out now, instead of four years from now, if the changes to a utility's safety education programs required by the new rule are resulting in improved public gas safety awareness.

Is this all we need to do to comply with the new rule?

No. Each utility must develop and follow a written public awareness plan following American Petroleum Institute (API) Recommended Practice RP 1162. Effectiveness assessments are just one of many requirements of RP 1162. Effectiveness assessments must also be done for excavators, public officials and emergency responders - the three other target audiences listed in RP 1162. These are not included in APGA GOAL. In addition to GOAL, APGA offers a free model written public awareness plan that can be downloaded off our website.

Why aren’t all target audiences included?

Because there are other ways to measure gas safety knowledge of the other three target audiences. Many state one-call systems are conducting effectiveness assessments of excavators. Public officials and emergency responders are often made aware of gas safety in face-to-face meetings, at the end of which it is relatively simple for the utility representative to complete a quick evaluation. Customers and non-customers, however, seemed to have no such easy solutions so we created APGA GOAL to fill that gap.

Where can I get a copy of RP 1162?

From the American Petroleum Institute (202-682-8000) www.api.org

Do we need to provide telephone numbers for our customers and non-customers?

No. Gatesman+Dave has a database of residential telephone numbers. Gatesman+Dave will contact you to define the boundaries of your system. From those boundaries Gatesman+Dave can generate a random sample of residential telephone numbers in your area. A random sample will include some customers and some non-customers. The first question on the survey asks if they are a gas customer.

What happens when I send in the sign-up form?

You will be contacted by Gatesman+Dave to sign a contract for the services, get information on your system name and other information for the questions.

When will the program begin?

The initial surveys for systems signed up by March 31 began in April, 2006. Additional surveys will be done as more systems sign up. All participating systems had a survey done in 2006. In future years surveys will be conducted according to the level selected. Systems choosing to be surveyed at the minimum level will be surveyed in one of the following 4 years (1/4 of the systems each year).

The first survey is not required until 2010. Why did GOAL start in 2006?

The first survey was to provide a baseline against which future survey results will be compared. Utilities will be expected to show improvement in the level of public gas safety knowledge from one survey to the next. We expect that once the changes to public education programs mandated by the new rules have been implemented, it will result in higher levels of public gas safety awareness. If we wait until 2010 to do the first survey, the level of public gas safety awareness will be higher than it is now and this will become the basely; future surveys would have to show improvement over this level of awareness rather than the presumably lower level that exists now.

Why was an automated calling system selected?

Two reasons, low cost and statistical validity. Other methods such as focus groups and mailed in cards or surveys are a self-selected, not random sample. To make matters worse, people who take the time to complete surveys and return them to the utility often do so because they are angry with the utility for some reason (high gas costs, perceived poor service, etc). We did not want compliance to be determined by a non-random sample composed of individuals with an axe to grind with the utility.

Telephone calls can ensure a random sample. Live calling requires expensive training to ensure the caller does not introduce bias in how the questions are asked or lead the responder to the right answer. With automated calling the questions are always asked the same way. No live calling system can match 29 cents per call for APGA GOAL.

Won’t some calls fail?

Experience with automated calling is that 90 to 95% of calls will fail, either because the person hangs up or provides answers that cannot be understood. A 95% failure rate is built into the sample size in APGA GOAL. We assume only 1 in 20 calls will be successfully completed. Note that the fee for APGA GOAL includes all calls attempted, not just those successfully completed. The tables in the GOAL brochure are based on the number of calls necessary to achieve a statistically valid result even if only 1 in 20 calls succeed.

When the phone call is made, does it reference our utility or does it sound like a survey conducted for another party?

Before any calls are made the GOAL contractor, Gatesman+Dave, contacts you to get additional information, including the wording of the opening statement that "this call is on behalf of XYZ Utility."

How long would does it take a customer to complete the survey?

3-5 minutes, but it can take more if they ask for questions to be repeated or the system has difficulty understanding the responses.

What if the survey is interrupted and not completed?

We recognize that some people will hang up in the middle of the survey. As previously mentioned, our sample size assumes that only 1 in 20 people will complete the entire survey. Since none of the questions are dependent on answers to subsequent questions, all the answers up to the point the call stops are valid, so all answered questions will be included in your GOAL report, even if the person didn’t complete all the questions. Your GOAL report will list how many people answered each question, and the difference between one question and the next is the number of people that dropped out at that point in the survey. This does not affect the validity of the survey results.

Doesn’t the “Do Not Call” registry affect the program?

No. The “Do Not Call” registry applies only to sales calls, not surveys.