Call 811 Before You Dig so 911 is Not Needed

Call 811 Before You Dig so 911 is Not Needed

One of the notable physical attributes of the U.S. natural gas pipeline network is that it is predominately located underground.  This unique characteristic largely protects natural gas pipelines from the effects of inclement weather, like hurricanes and tornados.

But there is a risk to this largely out of sight, out of mind infrastructure: fences, decks and swimming pools and other construction related activities. We must all do our part to protect this underground energy network from third party damage and it starts with calling 8-1-1 before you dig.

Led by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) and Common ground Alliance (CGA), August 11th is recognized as 811 Day to raise awareness about calling 811, the national call-before-you-dig number, prior to beginning any excavation project.

Below we answer a few commonly asked questions about calling 811:

What is 811?

8-1-1 is the national, toll-free phone number to call before beginning any excavation project, big or small. Whether you are planting a garden in your backyard or building a house on an empty lot, you are required to call 811 or visit your state’s 811 center website to request information about the approximate location of utilities, like natural gas pipelines, buried beneath the ground. After you call or submit a request online, utility companies will come to your property and mark the routes of utility lines to ensure you don’t unintentionally hit an underground line while digging.

Why is calling 811 important?

Calling 811 not only keeps you safe, but your community as well. Hitting an underground line while digging can cause serious consequences, including injury or death, in addition to the costs of repair and disruption to utility services.

This is why it is important that you follow all necessary safety measures, beginning with contacting your local 811 center, giving the utilities time to respond to your request, and allowing the utilities to mark their respective lines on your property, before ever putting a shovel in the ground. While the law varies state-to-state, utility companies typically have a few days to come out and fulfill your request to mark utility lines.

What information do I need before calling 811?

Whether you call 811 or visit your state’s 811 center website, you will need information about the location and nature of your excavation project. Once submitted, you will receive a ticket number, information about the length of time the utilities have to respond to the request, and instructions on how to confirm whether or not the utilities have surveyed your property.

Is calling 811 really necessary?

Yes! Buried utility lines are everywhere. Projects as small as installing a mailbox or planting a tree still require you to call 811. It is better to be safe, than put you, your neighbors or your community as risk. It is also important to note, if you have a contractor or landscaper doing work on your property, it is crucial that you make sure they call 811 a few days ahead of the scheduled work.

The utility companies have marked my property. What’s next?

Time to start digging! Once the utility companies have come out to mark their respective lines, you can begin your project. Just remember to be careful digging around the marked lines and never on top of them. Some utility lines are buried just beneath the surface and digging too close can cause unintended consequences.

Now that you understand the importance of the national 811 program and its requirements, you are ready to plan your next excavation project. Share this information with friends, family and neighbors to inform them of the potential dangers of digging without knowing where utility lines lie.  And don’t forget, always call 811 before you dig!