Before your shovel hits the dirt for landscaping projects this spring, think twice. Did you call 811 first to have any underground lines marked?
“A few years ago, a customer was planting a garden and nicked one of our gas lines,” said Jeff Brown, Supervisor of Construction & Maintenance for UniSource gas. “He thought he knew where the underground lines were located so he didn’t call 811 two days ahead of time before digging.”
That customer isn’t alone. A recent survey shows that almost half of U.S. homeowners planning projects like this don’t call 811 to have lines marked.
“They think, ‘I’m a homeowner; 811 is only for big excavation companies,’ Brown said. “But even contractors trying to expedite a job sometimes don’t take the time to call 811 before digging and then that leads to problems.”
Digging before calling 811 can result in damaged underground electric lines or ruptured gas lines, posing a safety hazard and causing a service disruption to nearby homes and businesses.
During National Safe Digging Month in April, UniSource and other utilities hope to raise awareness about the importance of calling 811 before digging through an education and outreach campaign.
“Our public outreach program to residential and commercial customers stresses the risks of digging without having underground utility lines marked,” said Kristy Rees, Unisource Public Awareness Compliance Specialist. “We’ve expanded our efforts to include field employees handing out safety brochures and reminding customers that calling 811 first is a free service and it’s the law.”
UniSource Gas District Manager Theresa Inman added, “Safety is first and foremost. And we know that third-party damage is the No. 1 cause of damaged facilities.”
Customers who call 811 will receive a visit from line locators who will mark the locations of underground lines with spray paint, a flag or both. If the lines are disrupted by foot traffic, vehicles or heavy rains, customers should call again to have the lines remarked.
Customers who think they may have accidentally damaged an underground line should contact UniSource immediately so that our crews can inspect the site and make repairs, if needed.
Here are some important tips to remember:
- Always contact 811 at least two (2) days before digging, regardless of depth or your familiarity of the property.
- If you’re using a contractor, verify they’ve contacted 811 and don’t allow work to begin until lines are marked.
- Consider moving the location of your project if it is near marked utility lines.
- If your project is near a utility line, carefully hand dig within two feet of the marked lines and visually determine the exact location of the utility line before proceeding.
- Don’t build sheds, shops, decks or other structures over utility lines, as they can restrict access to the lines, resulting in a dangerous situation.
- Remember that damaging a utility line is dangerous and can result in expensive repairs and possibly fines.
- Visit arizona811.com/ or uesaz.com/811/ for more information.
“Calling 811 ahead of time is free and easy, and it’s the law. It helps keep everyone safe and ensures reliable service,” Brown said.