Call 811 Before You Start Outside Home Improvement Projects!

You’ve probably heard the reminder or seen the signs proclaiming, “Call Before You Dig!” This reminder pertains to having utility lines located and marked before you dig anywhere on your property. But, do you do it? If you’re like me, you’ve always thought that line only pertained to excavators and contractors who dig deep into the earth. A survey shows that a mere 35% of homeowners pay attention to this warning and call before they dig. Well, guess what? It pertains to you and me too! And if we don’t heed the warning, there can be dire consequences. So, pay attention do-it-yourselfers and gardeners! Call 811 before you start outside home improvement projects that require digging!

811 Is the New National Phone Number
Previous to May of 2007, it was a bit confusing on what number you were supposed to call before you started to dig. There are a myriad of phone numbers across the United States, each one pertaining to a different location. Now, 811 is the new Federal Communications Commission (FCC)-designated national number that everyone to use.

Why Do You Need to Call the 811 Number?
When you look outside at your lawn or other property, you don’t think about what’s underneath the grass or dirt below. But if you’re a do-it-yourselfer who is planning a home improvement project that’s going to require digging, you need to find out. In fact, calling 811 is the law.

State laws tells us that we must always call the 811 number before we dig on our property. Common sense tells us, if you’re going to plant flowers or do some other kind of light excavating, there’s really no need. However, do-it-yourselfers who are planning on doing home improvement projects like landscaping, planting trees, removing tree roots, digging holes for installing fence posts, mailboxes, et cetera, putting in supports for decks or building retaining walls, definitely need to call 811 first.

What Happens When You Call 811?
When you call- and you should call at least two or three business days ahead of time- an operator will ask you some required information:

1. Your Name
2. The Location of the Planned Excavation
3. The Type of Excavation You Are Planning
4. The Nearest Cross Steeet
5. The Distance and Direction Off the Road
6. Date and Time of the Planned Excavation
7. The Number of Your City/County Permit
8. If You Marked Out the Excavation Site in White, Chalk-Based Paint

The call center will then notify the proper utility companies who, in turn, will send someone out to locate and mark underground lines on your property. You’ll then know where you can and cannot dig. This service is free to all homeowners.

Note: You must wait until the locators come out and mark your property before you can begin digging for a do-it-yourself home improvement or gardening project! If you hired the project out, the contractor should make the phone call.

What Can Happen If You Don’t Call 811?
According to the Common Ground Alliance (CGA), there were nearly 700,000 incidents in 2004 alone, where underground utilities were struck. That means that, not calling 811 before they dig resulted in someone hitting an underground utility every minute. These resulted in damages to wires, pipelines, and other utility connections, and even injuries and outages of utility service.

As I said, when you look at your grassy yard or dirt on your property, you probably don’t think of what’s located underneath. Yet there could be natural gas lines, telephone lines and electrical power lines buried underground, and possibly just feet below the surface. Digging into an electrical line, for example, can easily cause burns, shock and electrocution. On top of that, you can be fined for not calling 811 first and having your excavation site checked first before you dig, You can also be charged for repair costs to fix the damaged lines.

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