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Call before you dig!

Spring is here and it’s time to think about outside projects like planting trees, shrubs, flowers or installing a fence or deck. Before you put shovel to the ground, think about what might be underneath.

Power lines that run from your house to the garage, or phone, cable, water or gas lines could also be located there. There are many hidden lines in the ground that need to be marked before you dig.

811 is the national call-before-you-dig phone number. Anyone who plans to dig should call 811 or go to their state 811 center’s website a few business days before digging to request the approximate location of buried utilities be marked with paint or flags so that you don’t unintentionally dig into an underground utility line.

In 2005, 811 was used to coordinate location services for underground public utilities. This safety measure not only helps prevents damage that interrupts telecommunications, but also the cutting of subterranean power lines, water mains and natural gas pipes.

811 protects you and your community! Hitting a buried line while digging can disrupt utility service, cost money to repair, or cause serious injury or death.

DO I NEED TO CONTACT 811?

Yes! Any digging requires contacting your 811 center, either by calling 811 from anywhere in the U.S. or making your request through your state 811 center’s website. Remember to wait the required time for utilities to respond to your request, and ensure that all utilities have responded to your request before putting a shovel in the ground.

When you dial 811, you will automatically be connected to a representative from your state’s 811 center who will ask you simple questions about the location and details of your digging project. If you make your request online, you will enter the same information into a form. Either way, you will receive a ticket number and instructions for how much time utilities have to respond to your request, as well as how to confirm that all utilities have responded before you can safely dig.

WHEN CAN I BEGIN MY DIGGING PROJECT?

Wait for the marks! Utilities will mark their buried lines on your dig site.

State laws vary, but generally, utility companies have a few days to respond to your request. Utilities will send out locators who will come to your dig site to mark the approximate location of buried utilities with paint or flags so that you can avoid them. Each utility type corresponds to a specific color of paint or a flag — for example, gas lines are marked with yellow paint or flags. In addition to waiting for marks, you must use the info on your ticket to confirm that ALL utilities have responded before you can dig.

WHAT’S NEXT?

You called before digging, waited for your lines to be marked, confirmed that all utilities responded to your request, and now it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get to work! Make sure to always dig carefully around the marks, not on them. Some utility lines may be buried at a shallow depth, and an unintended shovel thrust can bring you right back to square one — facing potentially dangerous and/or costly consequences. Don’t forget that erosion or root structure growth may shift the locations of your utility lines, so remember to call again each time you are planning a digging job.

If you hired a contractor or landscaper to do the digging project, be sure to check with them and make sure they will contact 811 a few business days before digging begins – whether it means you making the call, or your contractor doing so. Never let digging work begin without contacting 811! It’s not worth the risk.

Finally, if you are only planning to dig in a small portion of your yard, you can outline the area in white paint or white flags available at home improvement stores to ensure that only the utilities in that part of your yard will be located and marked. Be sure to let your 811 center know about your plans, and they will help ensure the proper area is marked by utility locators.

Check out 811 In Your State (call811.com)

About Cheryl McCollum

Cheryl McCollum is a blogger for TDS.
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