August 11 is National Safe Digging Day, also known as 811 Day. The observance reminds anyone considering an outdoor project to get underground utilities marked before digging. Doing so is free and easy; simply call 811 at least two full business days prior to starting a digging project.
If you don’t take the time to call before you dig, you could become one of the people in this statistic: Someone digs in an unmarked yard and strikes an underground line every nine minutes in the U.S., on average, according to safeelectricity.org. Striking an unmarked power line can lead to fines, serious injury, a power outage and even death.
People are tempted to skip calling in advance because they think striking a buried line won’t happen to them. They assume they won’t dig too deep or that they’ll be lucky. But underground lines are unyielding. Their path is unpredictable, and hitting one can happen with one strike of a shovel or other tool.
Examples of projects that require locating utilities include putting up a fence, installing a mailbox post, building a deck or patio, and planting trees and shrubs; however, this is not an all-inclusive list. Any project that breaks ground requires that underground utilities be marked.
After submitting a request, underground lines will be marked by their respective utilities; however, locators do not mark private lines such as service to outbuildings, underground sprinkler systems or a gas line to a grill. Private lines are the responsibility of the property owner.
If you’re only digging in a small area of your yard, you can outline the area in white spray paint or with white flags to ensure that only that part of your yard will be located and marked.
There are five steps to safer digging:
1. Mark the proposed dig area with white paint or flags.
2. Call 811 or visit texas811.org to submit your locate request before you dig. There is no charge for the service.
3. Wait the required amount of time (typically two business days).
4. Respect the markers and do not move any flags.
5. Dig with care. Avoid digging on top of or within 18–24 inches on all sides of utility marks, which may mean moving your project to another part of your yard.