Managing Your Cross Connection Program with Software


Basic Requirements of any Cross Connection Control Program

Any comprehensive and successful cross connection control program will generate information that must be organized and tracked. It is important to give careful consideration to your record keeping methods and tools. A system needs to be in place that will fulfill the following requirements:

  • A system for notifying customers when backflow preventers must be installed, tested or repaired, and for tracking the responses.
  • A system to insure all backflow preventers be tested regularly.
  • A system of tracking due dates and to send notices.
  • Certain letters will be sent out frequently, so it is helpful to have a standard and automated system to accomplish this.

Additionally, any software system you consider should improve the efficiency and effectiveness of your organization by automating and enhancing your existing business practices. Specifically, your backflow software should:

  • Have a simple, intuitive and professional interface.
  • Should be designed to meet your specific needs. For example, are you a private tester or do you manage the cross connection program of a large city?
  • You should have access to your raw data without needing proprietary database packages or complex procedures.
  • Should be easy to setup, maintain and operate without the need to depend on expensive annual support contracts. Technical support should be a convenience - not a necessity.
  • When data is entered, it should be entered once and only once. You should never have to reenter an address, test schedule or any other information. The database should do the job of pulling that information up for you.
  • The number of devices and facilities you manage should be limited only by the space on your computer. Don't let companies charge you more because you have added devices. Any commercial database system that can handle 100 devices can just as easily handle 10,000.

Your Options

Cross connection software is available to assist with these aspects of your program. The software is available in a wide range of prices and capabilities. Of course, our CheckMate Enterprise system will be used as the basis for this article.

The Basics

All cross connection control programs will maintain the following types of data.

  • Facility Information
    • Facility Name, Physical and Mailing Addresses, Account Information, and Facility Type
  • Hazard and Device Information
    • Hazard (Cross Connection) Type, Location and details
    • Device Manufacturer, Model, Serial Number, Type and other details
  • Device Test Information
    • Test Date, Type, Parameters and Results
  • Notice Generation and History

Additionally, many municipalities require that information be retained regarding facility surveys, backflow tester certifications and test kit calibrations.

Entering, Maintaining and Retrieving Data

Any software system should make it simple to enter, retrieve and manage your data. You should be able to enter new information, view the overall status of your cross connection program and view and address required actions at a glance. Figure 1 shows the Dashboard approach taken by CheckMate Enterprise to this requirement. Upcoming Tests, Surveys and Pending Notices are displayed immediately on entering the system. Navigation to the most important and commonly utilized functions is a click away and upcoming and overdue tests, certifications and calibrations are instantly visible.

Figure 1 - CheckMate Enterprise Dashboard

The first step in every backflow management program is to enter your facilities. The facility screen will generally be organized into Facility Information, Contact Information and notes sections. You should be able to easily search for a facility by several different fields. The images below show the facility search capabilities of CheckMate. Typing '131' in the Facility Name Search box at the top of the screen automatically begins to filter the drop down. Simply selecting the facility from the drop down will take you directly to that facility record. There are also more advanced search capabilities that let you search by Contact Names, Addresses and Account Information etc.

After entering your facility information, you will move on to Hazard and Device information. This detail information can be very difficult to display and modify easily because of the multiple levels of data. A facility can have several hazards, which can each have multiple devices, which will in turn have several tests. Every cross connection software application has had to address this issue and each has - with varying degrees of success. Ambitec's approach is simple, powerful and elegant. At a glance you can view all the hazards, devices and device tests for a given facility. Click on a hazard and see the devices associated, click on a device and see its entire test history and click on a test to pull up that test record. You can also edit all hazard and device information directly on this form.

Entering test information has also been a challenge for software developers in this industry. Different device types require differing test parameters and inputs. Most software applications have addressed this through creating separate screens for each test type or by minimizing the test details you can maintain (some even keep only a pass/fail status). Checkmate has developed a test entry form that closely matches the printed test form making data entry seamless.

When entering a test, the next test date should automatically be calculated for you, based on the specific test scheduling parameters you have entered for the device. When the device is again ready to be tested, an automated process should initiate the notice procedures of the software. The generated notices should be easily retrievable and available to reprint at any time.

The above steps form the foundation of your cross connection management program. Performing the above steps efficiently and diligently will lead to a successful backflow prevention program. Any software that can provide you a complete solution at an affordable cost will help your organization tremendously.

Additional Functionality

All software solutions offer differing sets of functionality to help you run a successful cross connection control program. Below are some that Ambitec's CheckMate Enterprise software provides:

  • Assign your Facilities to Zones to effectively schedule and distribute work to your testers and surveyors.
  • Give your facilities a birthday and schedule all its upcoming surveys and device tests on the same day
  • Search the system by barcodes - Scan in a barcode from a test or survey form and immediately create new records or view facility and device details.
  • Tablet PC Module - Assign tests and surveys from the Enterprise Dashboard and let your technicians do their work directly on a Tablet PC. No more transcribing all those tests and survey sheets to the database. The Tablet PC module transfers your data directly into the system. The facility representative can sign off right on the tablet.

Finding the Right Solution

Find out what solutions are out there. Talk to your local or regional backflow groups and chapters, read the trade magazines and search the internet. Take into account the company's presence. How do they rate as an established, reliable and professional looking organization? Although not always the case, unprofessional looking websites or promotional material could be indicative of the type of product you are going to receive. Once you have identified possible solutions, contact the company. Ask questions relating to your specific needs.

  • Does the company offer customization on any of their products? Do they offer specific packages for your situation?
  • What is the cost of the software package, including annual technical support contracts? Do they require you to maintain annual support contracts to maintain the license?
  • Are their limits to the number of facilities and devices you can track in the system and how much will it cost you when your needs grow?
  • What programming language is the software written in and what database holds the data. Even if you are not a programmer, if you've never heard of the language or database, chances are it is not one of the more common or utilized programming environments.

Ambitec's CheckMate Suite of Software

CheckMate SE© is designed for small municipalities, plumbers, testers and contractors. This version tracks testable assemblies and offers:

• Facility & Assembly Tracking
• Facility Test Schedules
• Upcoming / Delinquent Tests
• Tester Listings
• Editable Facility Notice
• Facility Work Orders
• Inventory Reports

CheckMate Plus© is specifically tailored for public water utilities, large municipalities, large manufacturing plants and government installations. This version includes all the features of CheckMate SE© and other advanced features such as:

• Hazard Identification
• Tracking Of All Protection Devices (Testable & Non- Testable)
• Tracking Of All Facility Water Uses/Cross Connections
• Devices By Status Reports
• Tracking Of Test Kits

CheckMate Enterprise© expands on the functionality of CheckMate Plus© by offering the following features.

• Set test and survey appointments.
• Assign tests and surveys.
• Send test and survey compliance and non compliance letters.
• Send out appointment reminders.
• Create a new test or survey record with one click.

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Our Services Based in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Ambitec has provided professional programming services to clients all over the world for close to 20 years. Our expertise lies, not only in the technical details of coding software, but in the art of elegant, sophisticated and intuitive user interface design.
Our Contact Info 505-244-8343
Our Location 718 Central SW
Albuquerque, NM 87120
Our Staff Ambitec maintains a full time staff of professional Software Designers, Business Information Systems Experts and Engineers.