As the weather turns warmer, many North Carolinians are spending more time outside and beginning to tackle outdoor projects that involve digging.
Before reaching for a shovel and beginning that project, cooperative members are reminded to dial 8-1-1, the national “call before you dig” number, at least three working days before digging so that buried utility lines can be located and marked. This free and simple call helps prevent harm to you and those around you, as well as repair costs, fines and inconvenient service disruptions that can result from striking an underground utility line.
According to North Carolina 811, an underground utility line is damaged every nine minutes due to the failure to call 811 before beginning a digging project.
A call should be placed to 811 before every digging project, from simple landscaping projects like planting trees or shrubs, to building a deck or installing a rural mailbox.
One free phone call to 811 links you to a local call center that notifies all appropriate utility companies of your intent to dig. Here’s how it works:
- Gather pertinent information, including your address, where you will be digging, what the digging is for and how long it will take (learn more about specific details needed at nc811.org).
- Call 811 and speak with a North Carolina 811 customer service representative. They will ask you a few questions about your project to determine which utilities to contact. At the end of the call you will receive a locate number. You can use this number to check on the status of your request and which lines have and have not been marked.
- Wait the required time. North Carolina law requires you to wait three full working days before digging. While you wait, mark where you plan to dig with white paint or flags so utility locators know the exact area of your excavation.
- Once all lines are marked with stakes, flags or paint, remember to respect the marks. Each utility will mark lines in a designated color.
- Always dig with care. Be aware of the tolerance zone, which is 24 inches on either side of the marked utility and use extreme caution if you must dig within this zone.
NC 811 was founded in 1978, and 811 is now recognized nationally as the number to “call before you dig.” Established in 2008, National Safe Digging Month brings stakeholders together each April to promote the collective message of safe digging.
Electric cooperatives and other utilities fund the nonprofit organization, making it a free service for members and customers across North Carolina. For more information about the safe digging process, visit nc811.org.