811 Before You Dig

by Michael Bernzweig

In the spring and summer, warm weather allows people to start working outside on new projects. Who does not want to improve their property? At this time of year, you might want to start digging fence posts, planting trees, or constructing a new building. If you want to dig on your property, 811 will assist you in avoiding colliding with underground utility lines, keeping you and your neighbors safe. The following are five procedures to take when notifying member utility operators in the region of your desire to dig via 811. Please do not hesitate to contact 811 if you have any questions or concerns throughout the procedure.

No matter how deep you dig, you may encounter problems when you reach the surface. If you hit something below the surface, even a shallow dig can become problematic. Pipes and wires could run closer to the ground's surface than you imagine. Caution is the name of the game when it comes to new construction projects on your property. Of course, using a metal detector could help you locate underground utilities, but you could also simply call 811.

Why You Need to Call 811 Before You Dig

Call 811 before digging to locate underground utilities. You can call this number to find out about underground utility lines, including their location and depth. The service is set up nationwide and designed to avoid accidents before they happen. By calling 811, you can request that the approximate locations of buried utilities be marked with flags or paint. Using professional locators, you will be able to avoid hitting buried underground pipes and sewer lines or even a natural gas line accidentally on your property. It is always best to hand dig in areas you expect utilities versus using mechanized digging equipment.

We strongly advise you to call 811 if you are planting a garden, installing new foliage, having a new shed or a foundation built, installing a fence, or upgrading your property by digging in any way. For the service, there is no project too complex, basic or unique. Whenever you are planning your project, be sure to leave yourself the required time for the process of scheduling the visit, as it might take some time. When contacting 811, advise them of your exact location. While starting a new excavation can be exciting, it must be done with care. Your construction site and the entire process should be safe and well-planned. When you speak to 811, explain the nature of the project you are working on. Water, cable, telephone, gas, and electricity are all utilities that provide services to your residence underground. Your property might indeed be the last stop on the way, but it is part of a larger network of utilities in your community. Is calling 811 before digging as important as you may think? Read on to learn the importance of calling 811 before you dig.

It's the Law

As a matter of law, most American states require you to call 811 before you dig to locate and mark utility lines. As a result of not calling ahead and accidentally hitting utilities while digging, you may be fined heftily.

The underground lines can be traced by calling 811 and then having them marked so that you know exactly what is underneath your property. If you don't know what is under your site, then you risk causing a major problem for yourself and the others who require those utility lines.

By planning ahead and submitting a request a few business days before starting work, you can be fully prepared. State-by-state, the exact number of days between contacting 811 and beginning work varies. You can call 811 to find out how long it will take before you can dig. It is best to call 811 as soon as possible. If you wait too long, you might experience delays.

Marking an underground electric line is the greatest approach to determining what is under your feet before you begin digging. This is the law. In most states, calling 811 before digging is mandated by law. Plan ahead and submit your request more than a working day before to the start of the task you are about to accomplish. Each state has a different requirement for the number of days in advance that you must submit a request.

Waiting until the last minute may require you to postpone your project to enable representatives to visit your property and precisely identify underground utility wires. A professional excavator is required when the pipes and pipeline have multiple utility lines, so for the sake of public safety, proper electric safety precautions have to be taken in the tolerance zone while informing the affected utility operators to shut off the gas line in the tolerance zone in the underground pipe for a natural gas leak.

It's Safe

You can be seriously injured if you accidentally hit an underground utility line. If you hit an underground utility line, you could suffer serious injuries or even die. It is not uncommon for utility lines to not be buried deep underground. In fact, there are a few utility lines that are only buried a few inches underground.

To operate your property, you will need several different types of utility lines, such as electric power lines, telecommunication lines, natural gas lines, sewers and drains, drinking water lines, reclaimed water lines, or irrigation lines. It is important to note that by calling 811 before you begin digging, not only will you be kept safe, but your neighbors will also be protected.

It Prevents Damage And Unexpected Power Failures

Having yard markers placed by 811 means you can prepare to dig a safe distance from underground utility lines. Most states have laws that mandate a tolerance zone on either side of the marked lines. The tolerance zone is an area around the underground utility lines. In these areas, only a specific type of digging is allowed. You should dig with special care to prevent hitting a buried utility line. If you hit a utility line, you may disrupt the utility services for your neighbors and yourself. Unplanned power or water outages could occur. Pipes, lines, and wires in the yard are potential land mines for disaster if you hit them when digging. When digging, it is also important to know just how close you can build to the property lines of neighbors.

By clearly marking your yard, you can ensure that you dig safely away from subterranean utilities. Most states have enacted legislation requiring a tolerance zone on each side of the defined borders. The tolerance zone is an area around subterranean power lines that permits only specific sorts of digging. Additional information is available in your state's 811 commonly asked questions area and customer service. Dig carefully to avoid striking a buried line, which might result in a loss of utility service to you and your neighbors. If a broken underground line requires repair, it may cause unscheduled outages to allow personnel to fix the lines properly. If you have designated your utility lines and accidentally come into contact with a Dominion Energy natural gas or utility line, immediately stop excavating and walk away from the area. Call 911 immediately and then notify Dominion Energy or your local utility of the event.

It Avoids Outages

Being without water, power, or sewage lines can cause long-term issues for you and your neighbors. A sewage line that seeps into the water pipes can cause health issues. Along with health issues, hitting an underground utility line can cause the electricity to go out in your area.

Outages may take some time to fix, depending on their severity. There are metal detectors that can help find certain underground utilities, such as plumbing pipes. These industrial-use metal detectors make it possible to find utilities, but they don't replace calling 811 or markings placed around the dig site.

Requesting markings from 811 isn't silly because the depth of lines can be altered by natural forces such as erosion. Even putting in a garden, flower bed, or mailbox can cause you to dig into utility lines.

It's Free!

It costs you absolutely nothing to call 811 to request utilities to be marked out on your planned excavation site. From commercial to residential real estate, it is not only the smart thing to do but the law. So, all in all, there is really no reason not to call. Having the utility lines marked can help you avoid paying more later, regardless of your budget. If you dig without calling 811, you could end up paying more later on. The amount of money you may end up paying for medical bills or repairs could be astronomical. You can either call the phone number or submit a request on 811's website. Some states have a smartphone app too. The person responsible for requesting utility line markings must be fully understood whether you are working alone or with a contractor on a project.

811 is a completely free service that is open to everyone. It's as simple as calling 811 or making an online inquiry. In certain regions, you may also be able to submit a request directly from your phone or tablet using an app. If you are working with a contractor on your project, ensure that you understand who is responsible for requesting utility line marking and understand the safety tips. The service is provided free of charge regardless of who makes the request.

Before Digging a Hole in the Dirt

Once a request is received, personnel in your region will color-code the project area to indicate the locations of subsurface utilities. 811 does not designate private utility lines. Electric lines connecting your house to a detached garage or shed, invisible pet fences, satellite or dish television connections, septic tanks and linkages, and propane tanks or lines are all examples.

The utility company has underground lines. An underground facility with buried utility lines and excavation is required to save energy when there's a leak, and the utility marks handle the repair costs. At the same time, the ruined property and paint are at your expense. In southern California, for example, state law has rights reserved on the digging job for safe digging in the approximate location for natural gas safety of the facility owner.

The National Excavator Initiative aims to help reduce the number of people injured while working on construction sites across the United States. The program encourages contractors to use excavation equipment that meets certain safety standards. In addition, the program provides training courses for those who operate heavy machinery. As a matter of fact, digging without calling 811 is likely to cause damage to utilities such as water lines, gas lines, electrical wires, fiber cables, and many others. Digging without checking first could easily lead to costly repairs and even fatalities.

National and Regional Programs

From New York to Kentucky to North Carolina, and everywhere in between, residents are being encouraged by utility companies to call 811 before digging into their yards. The s Public Works department wants to encourage homeowners to reach out for a proper utility locate before starting work. This goes the same for all residents of the entire neighborhood.

While each region of the country has a unique setup, some regions have a consortium setup. For example, if you are in Vermont, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island, you can call Dig Safe for a locate.

© 2021 Detector Electronics Corp. - Revised September 2022