Calling 811 sounds simple, right?
It does until you realize that about half of all homeowners don’t call 811 before digging and that an underground utility line is damaged about every six minutes because of it, according to the Common Ground Alliance.
With National 811 Day on Aug. 11 and more than 200 million miles of underground utilities in the country, calling 811 before any digging project to have underground utility lines marked for free is the safest and only way to go -- whether you’re planting a shrub or installing a fence -- to prevent the outages, property damage, injuries and even death that can occur when underground utilities are hit.
“It really doesn’t matter how small the digging project is, accidentally hitting an underground utility line can cause harm to you and those around you,” said Andrew Martinez, vice president of safety, security and business resiliency at Southern California Edison. “Homeowners should always call 811 first to learn the location of underground utility lines. This is critical in preventing serious injuries and service outages.”
To prepare for the free markings, homeowners -- or any contractors hired by them -- should pre-mark the area where the digging will be done with white paint, stakes with white flags, chalk or any other material, including flour or sugar. Then, at least two to three days before the project, 811 should always be called to have any underground utility lines marked.
SCE offers some additional safety tips to homeowners and others working on digging projects, including:
• Give yourself enough time by calling 811 on Monday or Tuesday for weekend digging projects.
• If a contractor is doing the digging, confirm that they have called 811. No work should begin unless the utility lines are marked.
• Consider moving your project’s location if it is too close to utility line markings.
• Hand tools should be used when digging within 18-24 inches of the outside edge of underground utilities, and utility flags, stake or paint should be left in place until the project is finished.
• If the utility line is visible, dig in parallel with the utility line and use all precautions when removing the soil from around the utility line.
Call 911 or 1-800-611-1911 immediately if a utility line is hit.
(Paul Netter is an ‘Energized by Edison’ writer for Southern California Edison.)