Common Sense Digging Tips for Homeowners
Welcome! If you have contacted 811 before digging more than 12 inches deep on your property, you’ve already taken the important first step towards keeping you, your family, and your neighbors safe from unintentionally hitting an underground utility. Damaging underground utilities when you are digging can cause injuries, even deaths, environmental damage and loss of critical infrastructure and services. Having them clearly marked through this free public service is the next best thing to having x-ray vision so you’ll know what’s below!
This handy guide provides an overview of what you can expect.
There are four simple steps to follow when it comes to digging safely in your yard:
If you’re reading this, chances are you have already taken this important step. Your request, whether submitted through calling 811 or sending it via the website or mobile app, will generate a “ticket.” This is your request to have utilities located within the area where you plan to dig. It generates a notification to the utilities in your area to have their lines marked by a locator. Providing accurate information about your dig site is very important, and you should also then specify your project area by “white lining,” which is simply circling the dig area with white spray paint.
Once your request is made, you’ll need to wait two business days before you can begin digging. Keep in mind that holidays and weekends affect this waiting period, and if you make a request after 5 p.m., it counts as the next business day. Here’s a helpful guide that shows exactly when you can begin digging after making your request.
Once your site is marked and the waiting period is complete, take a moment to confirm that all utility operators listed on your ticket have responded. Not sure what the lines mean, use this handy guide to determine what utilities the colors represent.
Remember to protect your marks while working on the project. Take a picture of the site before beginning work and consider using flags if your project is going to take days or weeks to complete. The marks need to be your guide for the duration of the project, and they should no longer be used after 45 days.
4. EXCAVATE carefully
Use the marks as a guide, but remember they are not 100% perfect. If you can’t avoid digging near the marks, consider adjusting or moving your project. If that is not an option, be especially careful within the “tolerance zone,” which is 24 inches from the marks in every direction. Don’t use power equipment in this area and proceed with caution. If you encounter utilities that were not marked, stop digging and contact 811.
Keep in mind that most utility operators will locate to their meter, meter base or to the connection point of your private service for no charge. This includes Gas, Electric, Water, Telephone, fiber, and cable. If you have in-ground irrigation, drainage, or outbuildings with utilities, you should exercise special caution and, in some cases, you may even want to hire a private locator.
“Oops” is never a word you want to hear when digging, but it can happen. If you do hit a utility when digging, get yourself and anyone else in the area away from the site. If there is a potential threat to safety, contact 911 immediately. Do not attempt to repair, cover, or bury the damage. Do not resume digging until the emergency is addressed and repairs are made.
By following these four steps, you’ll minimize the risk of coming into contact with underground utilities. Good luck with your project and be sure to help spread the word about this free public service to your friends, family, and neighbors to help protect them as well. For more information, refer to this handy guide from our friends at the Common Ground Alliance