Once the design of a fiber optic project is complete and documented, one might think the bulk of the design work is done. But it’s just beginning. The next step is to plan for the actual installation. This is a critical phase of any project, as it involves coordinating activities of many people and companies. The best way to keep everything straight is probably to develop a checklist based on the design during the early stages of the project.

Perhaps the most important issue is to have a person who is the main point of contact for the project. The project manager needs to be involved from the beginning; understand the aims of the project, the technical aspects, and the physical layout; and be familiar with all the personnel and companies who will be involved. Likewise, all the parties need to know this person, how to contact him or her (even 24/7 during the actual install), and who is the backup if one is needed.

The backup person also should be involved to such a degree that he or she can answer most questions and may even be technically savvy on the project but may not have full decision-making authority. The backup on big jobs may be the person maintaining the documentation and schedules, keeping track of purchases and deliveries, permits, subcontractors, etc., while the project manager’s duties are more hands-on.

Developing a project checklist

The project checklist will have many important items. Each item needs a full description, where and when it will be needed, and who is responsible for it. Components, such as cables and cable plant hardware, should indicate vendors; delivery times; and where, when and sometimes how it needs to be delivered. Special installation equipment also must be scheduled with notes of what must be purchased and what will be rented. If the job site is not secure and the install will take more than a day, security guards at the job site may need to be arranged.

A work plan should be developed that indicates what specialties are going to be needed, where and when. Outside plant installations (OSP) often have one crew pulling cable—especially specialty installs, such as direct burial, aerial or underwater—-another crew splicing and perhaps even another testing. OSP installers often do just part of the job, since they need skills and training on specialized equipment, such as fusion splicers or OTDRs, and installation practices, such as climbing poles or plowing-in cables. Inputs from the installation crews can help determine the approximate time needed for each stage of the installation and what might go wrong that can affect the schedule.

And things will go wrong. All personnel working on the project should be briefed on the safety rules and preferably given a written copy. Supervisors and workers should have contact numbers for the project manager, backup and all other personnel they may need to contact. Since some projects require working outside normal work hours, for example airports or busy government buildings where cabling is often done overnight, having a project manager available and, preferably, on-site while the work is being done is very important.

During the installation, a knowledgeable person should be on-site to monitor the progress of installation, inspect workmanship, review test data, create daily progress reports and immediately notify the proper management if something goes awry. If the project manager is not technically qualified, having someone available who is technical is important. That person should have the authority to stop work or require fixes if major problems are found.

Facilities and power/ground issues

This series of articles primarily focuses on the unique aspects of fiber optic cable plant design and installation, but this process cannot be done in a vacuum. Cable plants may require municipal permits, cooperation from other organizations to allow access through a property and construction disruptions. Any communications system requires not only the cable plant but facilities for termination at each end, placing communications equipment, providing power (usually uninterruptible data quality power) and a separate data ground. Inside the facility, connections must be made to the end users of the link.

The large number of options involved in almost every project make it impossible to summarize the issues in a few sentences, so let’s just say you must consider the final, complete design to gain cooperation and coordinate the final installation. One of the most valuable assets you can have when designing and installing a fiber optic project is an experienced contractor, which will be the subject of next month’s column.

HAYES is a VDV writer and trainer and the president of The Fiber Optic Association. Find him at www.JimHayes.com.