On Aug. 11 (8/11), electric cooperatives across the state are recognizing the importance of safe digging and reminding their members to dial 8-1-1 at least three working days before beginning a digging project. This free and simple step can save lives and reduce risk of injury, repair costs, fines and inconvenient outages.
According to North Carolina 811, an underground utility line is damaged every nine minutes because someone decided to dig without first having underground lines marked. The depth of utility lines can vary for a number of reasons, such as erosion, previous digging projects and uneven surfaces, and the risk of striking a utility line exists even when digging only a few inches.
“Every time you break ground, even for something simple like planting a shrub or installing a mailbox, you should call 811 first,” said Greg Puckett, who serves on the N.C. Underground Damage Prevention Review Board and is also the executive vice president and general manager of Surry-Yadkin EMC, an electric cooperative based in Dobson. “No matter your level of expertise, it’s important to know what’s below the ground to prevent the potentially serious consequences of hitting a utility line.”
The national 811 “Call Before You Dig” phone number links residents to a local one-call center, which then notifies local utility companies to send out locators to mark underground lines with paint or flags. These marked lines indicate where it is – and isn’t – safe to break ground.
Once lines have been marked, make sure to dig carefully around the marks, not on top of them. Also, because utility line locations can shift, it’s important to call 811 before each digging project.
For more information about safe digging and the “Call Before You Dig” process, visit nc811.org.