Know What’s Below: Call Before You Dig

Spring and summer bring with them many outdoor projects. If your planned projects include digging, like planting a tree, adding a deck or
bringing i811 Call Before You Dign a backhoe for trench work, always plan ahead so you’ll have a few extra days so the job can be done safely. Underground utilities, such as buried gas, water and electric lines, can be a shovel thrust away from turning a spring project into a disaster.

To find out whether utility lines are located on your property, simply dial 811 from anywhere in the country a few days prior to digging. Your call will be routed to a local “one call” center. Tell the operator the address of where you’re planning to dig and what type of work you will be doing, and the affected local utilities will be notified.

In a few days, a locator will arrive to designate the approximate position of any underground lines, pipes and cables with flags or marking paint so you’ll know the location of the infrastructure. Then the safe digging can begin.

Although many homeowners tackling do-it-yourself digging projects are aware of “Call Before You Dig” services, the majority don’t take advantage of the service. A national survey showed that only 33 percent of homeowners called to have their utility lines marked before starting their digging projects, according to the Common Ground Alliance, a federally mandated group of underground utility and damage prevention industry professionals.

And while light gardening typically doesn’t call for deep digging, other seemingly simple tasks like planting shrubs or installing a new mailbox post can damage utility lines. A severed line can disrupt service to an entire neighborhood, harm diggers and potentially result in fines and repair costs.

Never assume the location or depth of underground utility lines. There’s no need: the 811 service is free, prevents the inconvenience of having utilities interrupted and can help you avoid serious injury. For more information about local services, visit