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Quick 8-1-1 Phone Call Can Reduce Digging Mishaps



March 31, 2014 (2014-07)
Contacts: Susan Ackerman, Chair, 503 378-6611, Stephen Bloom, Commissioner, 503 378-6611, John Savage, Commissioner, 503 378-6611, Bob Valdez, Public Affairs Specialist, 503 378-8962, Phil Boyle, Consumer Section Manager, 503-373-1827
Salem, OR. “Spring is here and many Oregonians are beginning projects that involve moving dirt,” said Commission Chair Susan Ackerman.  “By calling 811, you can avoid serious injury by finding out exactly where underground utility lines are located in your work area.”

811 calls are directed to a local call center and are sent to the affected utilities in the area of your planned project. Utility staff will then come out to your project area within 2 business days of your initial call and mark any underground utility lines so you will know where to dig safely. The entire process is free. Different colors of paint or stakes are used to identify what kind of utility line is buried below the ground. They include:
  • Red – Electric
  • Yellow – Gas/Petroleum Pipe Line
  • Orange – Communications, Telephone/CATV
  • Blue – Potable Water
  • Purple – Reclaimed Water
  • Green – Sewer/Drainage.
The utility line depths vary significantly and there may be multiple utility lines in one area. Also, some utility lines are only a few inches below the surface, making them easy to strike even during shallow digging projects, such as plantings. If you hit an underground utility line while digging, you can harm yourself or those around you, disrupt service to an entire neighborhood, and potentially be responsible for fines and repair costs.

Recent data shows that buried utility lines in the U.S. were struck more than 200,000 times in one year, with over 30 percent of such hits resulting from not calling before digging. For example, gas, electric, water, telephone, cable TV and other lines may be buried in a homeowner’s property beginning with the paved area at the street or alley. The most effective way to prevent damage to such lines is to call 811 if you plan to dig, wait for utilities to mark their lines and then dig with hand tools around those marks.

April 2014 is designated “National Safe Digging Month,” dedicated to increasing awareness of safe digging practices across the country.  It also celebrates the creation of the national call-before-you-dig number.