Our backyards, streets, and sidewalks hide millions of underground utility lines. If you’re not aware of where they are, digging can be dangerous and costly. To know what’s below, call 811, the public utilities underground location services.
What to Know
Whether you’re planting a tree, putting in a fence, or building a deck, contacting 811 to know what’s below the surface before you dig will help you complete any job safely.
Who to Call
The best part of calling 811 is that it’s FREE! You can either call or make an online request at 811now.com. 811 has a call center in each state where you’re able to speak with local representatives. They take the basic information about your digging project and notify the right utility companies.
When to Call
It’s recommended you call 811 a few days before you start digging. This will allow time for the utility companies in your area to identify and mark the location of your underground utility lines. The entire process usually takes 2-3 business days.
You may ask, “Why do I need to call 811 for a small project?”
The Dangers of Digging
Utility lines can be just inches below ground making it easy to strike a line even when you’re working on a smaller project like digging a flower bed. Damaged gas, electronic, water, sewer, and communication lines can result in serious injury and costly repairs. If you happen to strike a telephone, cable or internet line you could potentially knock out service to your entire neighborhood, which is extremely inconvenient and could result in heavy fines.
Other potential harmful situations that can be avoided by calling 811 are damaged gas lines releasing dangerous gas fumes and hitting electrical lines causing electrocution. According to call811.com, you have a less than 1% chance of striking a buried utility line when making a call to 811 a few days before digging.
What to Do Next
If you're only planning on digging in a small area of your yard, you can let the 811 representative know and mark off those perimeters with spray paint or flags. The utility locators will ensure that only that part of your yard is marked for utility lines.
Once you’ve confirmed where the utility lines are, be careful to respect the marked areas and dig carefully! Anytime you plan to dig, even if you are working with a landscaper or contractor, make the call to 811. Don’t take the risk by assuming you know what’s below the surface.
It's easy to follow these few steps and it'll keep you and your community safe . Remember, call 811, wait two to three days for the utility operators to mark underground utilities, respect the marks, and dig carefully!
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