Home and Community Safety & Health

Call before you dig: Survey shows people risking injury, damage by not using 811 service

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Alexandria, VA — More than a third of U.S. homeowners who have a digging project planned this year don’t intend to call 811 first, according to a recent survey conducted by the Common Ground Alliance.

Calling 811 before digging helps prevent damage to underground utility lines and is free. After callers provide their information, utility companies will send workers to mark the locations of underground lines.

CGA surveyed 621 homeowners about their opinions on home and property improvement projects. The results, published in April to coincide with National Safe Digging Month, showed that 36 percent of homeowners had no plans to call 811 before digging, and 47 percent had no experience using the 811 service.

The most common digging projects planned were planting a tree or shrub; fence, patio or deck building; and mailbox installation. Damaging an underground utility line – gas, electric, communications, water or sewer – could cause injury, outages and evacuations, and might lead to repair costs, CGA states.

The alliance suggests homeowners planning a do-it-yourself project:

  • Call 811 a few days beforehand, regardless of the depth or familiarity of the property.
  • Call on a Monday or Tuesday for work planned for an upcoming weekend, which allows time for workers to mark the property.
  • Confirm that all lines have been marked.
  • Consider moving the location of the project if it’s near utility line markings.
  • If hiring a contractor, confirm that he or she has called 811. Don’t allow work to begin if the lines aren’t marked.

An underground utility line is damaged every nine minutes in the United States because someone dug without first calling 811, according to data collected by CGA.

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