Did you know that the number of underground utility damages in the United States and Canada reached an all-time yearly high in 2019? According to CGA’s 2019 DIRT (Damage Information Reporting Tool) report, there were more than 450,000 damages throughout the year. The number one root cause of damages to underground utility lines is failure to notify the one call center by placing a locate request before excavation begins. As a homeowner, there are numerous ways you can contribute to the protection of underground utility lines.
The Underground Utilities Act, also known as the Call Before You Dig Law, was enacted by Washington in 1984. Today, every state in the nation has enacted a similar law. While the specifics of the law differ somewhat from state to state, each requires that any person who intends to dig must first call the 811 hotline and ensure that all utility lines have been located and marked before digging begins.
As the specifics of each state’s 811 laws differ, so do the penalties for failing to call 811 prior to excavation. Penalties for violation of state damage prevention laws range from $500 to $100,000. The possibility of disastrous consequences when one elects to dig without having underground utilities located first is even more unsettling. Striking a utility line can result in a loss of water, internet, gas, electricity, or even life in some tragic accidents.
No digging project is too small to warrant a call to 811. Many homeowners assume that plans for activities like digging to plant shrubs or installing a new mailbox are insignificant enough that they do not need to include a call (or click) to their state’s 811 call center- but nothing could be further from the truth! Some utilities are buried just a few inches below ground, shallow enough to be struck by a hand trowel. All digging should be safe digging, no matter the size of the project.
You can increase your contributions to damage prevention and safety in your community not just by making sure you remember to call 811 before digging, but also by ensuring any contractors you hire are doing the same. Contractors are extremely well versed on 811 laws in states they operate within; however, it is worthwhile to take an active interest in the locate ticket request submitted for your dig site and seeing that it is completed before excavation begins. Some state call centers even have websites you can visit to check the status of the locate request for your property.
There are countless opportunities to contribute to the damage prevention community. One of the easiest ways to add to damage prevention efforts is by spreading word and sharing your knowledge of safe digging best practices. The more members of the community who are aware of the importance of calling 811 and making sure a locate is completed before digging, the safer we all are.
KorTerra is the leading provider of damage prevention software, protecting billions of dollars in underground infrastructure. For over 30 years, the leading stakeholders in gas distribution, pipeline operation, telecommunications, electric distribution, contract locating, and city, county, and state governments have trusted KorTerra as their damage prevention solution. KorTerra helps mitigate risk and ensure the safety of field personnel by providing secure software platforms for processing 811 locate tickets, tracking and reporting asset damages, meeting regulatory compliance, and more. Explore additional solutions at korterra.com and follow KorTerra on LinkedIn.
Talia Hanneman – KorTerra, Inc.