Out of sight, out of mind.
The familiar idiom might ring harmlessly true for many situations, but safe digging isn’t one of them.
Not with the country’s more than 200 million miles of underground utilities, according to Call 811, and especially not with the estimated 12 million homeowners nationwide planning digging projects this year who won’t call 811 first as required by law.
It’s a hazardous combination that leads to thousands of unintentional strikes in California and hundreds of thousands of dig-ins nationwide to buried power, gas, water and phone lines as well as fiber-optic cable. Dig-ins can lead to outages, property damage, injuries and even death — not to mention that you could be responsible for paying for the damages.
All of this is why 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 so underground utilities can be marked by experts for free.
“Whether you’re planting a shrub or tree or installing a mailbox or fence, calling 811 before digging is the safest and single-best way to avoid hitting underground utilities,” said Adam Dow, principal manager of Operational Risk Management & Public Safety at Southern California Edison. “We urge homeowners and professional excavators to call before putting a shovel or equipment in the ground because 811 protects you and your community.”
To prepare for the utilities’ free markings before a digging project, homeowners or contractors 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, stakes 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.