If it’s true that the only time you start at the top is when you’re digging a hole, it’s even truer that the only way to start digging any hole safely is by calling 811 first.
That goes for planting a tree or shrub, building a patio, deck or fence and even installing a mailbox — all among the top home-digging projects.
Unfortunately, about 40% of the estimated 31 million homeowners planning digging projects do not call 811 before digging, according to Call 811. This has led to millions of unintentional strikes to the country’s more than 200 million miles of underground utilities, potentially creating safety hazards and disrupting utility service.
During April’s National Safe Digging Month and year-round, the safest and only way to begin any digging project is to call 811 or schedule an appointment online at least two-to-three days beforehand to have underground utility lines marked for free. This will help prevent the outages, property damage, injuries and even deaths that can occur when underground utilities are hit — not to mention you could be on the hook for the damages.
“Calling 811 before digging, no matter how small the project, is the single best way to avoid hitting an underground utility line,” said Andrew Martinez, vice president of Safety, Security and Business Resiliency at Southern California Edison. “We remind homeowners as well as professional excavators that calling 811 before digging is the only way to safely perform any of this work.”
To prepare for the free markings before a digging project, homeowners — or contractors hired by them — should pre-mark the area where the digging will occur with white paint, stakes with white flags, chalk or materials like flour or sugar.
SCE offers 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.