Every three minutes, someone in the United States damages an underground utility line.
That should be an eye-popping statistic no matter who you are. If you’re a homeowner, it means a greater chance you could lose access to basic services. If you’re an excavator, it means there’s a greater chance your project could get tied up in costly delays and fines and could cause harm to you, someone on your work crew or the public. If you’re an emergency responder, it means potential danger for your community.
Most importantly, for all of us, it means that you or someone you know could face devastating consequences due to an accident that could have been prevented. There’s a simple solution to this problem – 811 – the national “call before you dig” phone number.
Calling 811 is convenient, and it’s free, paid for by pipeline and utility companies to protect the public. All one needs to do is dial the number two to three business days before the start of the project and provide the location where the excavation will take place.
Professional locators will be sent to the site to mark the approximate locations of underground utilities and pipelines with flags or spray paint. Once the lines are marked, the excavator can see where all the underground utilities are located and can safely work around them.
The 811 process is that simple, which should be a relief for anyone planning to excavate. Things get complicated underground. Multiple utility lines can crisscross an area. Erosion can leave pipelines just a few inches below ground. Even the markers along a right-of-way may not give the exact location of the pipelines below. But a single phone call can clear all that up and help provide for a safe and successful excavation.
It’s important to call 811 before every project that requires breaking the soil, whether you are a homeowner installing a patio, installing a mailbox or planting a tree or a professional excavator or contractor. Even if you think you know what might be underground, make the call. It’s the free and easy way to stay protected. If you’ve hired someone to do the work, never assume that he or she will have the utility lines marked. Always confirm that the required one-call notification has been completed.
Aug. 11 is designated as 811 Day in the United States and is a reminder of the importance of calling before every excavation project. Enbridge is proud to be proactively involved in ongoing industry efforts to educate the public on safe digging and excavation, and we ask for your help in raising awareness of 811. As a pipeline operator in your area, we want to ensure all residents call 811 and excavate safely around our pipelines. Please encourage others to do the same, no matter where they may live.
You can find more information about 811 and safe excavation practices at call811.com or enbridgeUS.com/811. I also encourage you to visit the811promise.com and make the “811 Promise” to always call the national one-call number before digging.
Pledge to help keep underground utilities safe so that everyone who lives, works or congregates near pipelines can be safe. Always “call before you dig.”
Danny Bull is North Texas West District Manager for Enbridge.