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Planning a yard project? Don't just dig in!

April is National Safe Digging Month. It reminds us all that, as we begin beautifying our yards, we shouldn't just dig in. According to 811, the "Call Before You Dig" national hotline, an underground utility is damaged every nine minutes because someone didn't call before digging.

Call 8-1-1 before you dig. Whether it is a do-it-yourself project or you are hiring a professional, call 811 or your state's utility locating service two to three days prior to starting any digging project to request that all underground utilities be marked. (In Pennsylvania, call 8-1-1 or 1-800-242-1776 at least three business days, not counting the day you call, before the date you want to dig.) The service is free.

You may think it won't hurt anything to dig in an unmarked yard when landscaping; installing a fence, deck, or mailbox; or even "just" planting a small flower bed or bush. However, damaging an underground cable can have serious consequences.

Hitting a line could result in serious injuries (or even death) and disrupted service for you and your neighbors. It could also make a dent in your wallet for repair fees or other fines.

The 811 hotline points out that there is more than one football field's length of buried utilities for every man, woman, and child in the U.S.

Before digging:

  1. Call 811 - Know what's below. Call before you dig. (PA One Call)Notify your state's one-call center by calling 8-1-1 or making an online request three business days before work begins.
  2. Wait the required amount of time for affected utility operators to respond to your request.
  3. Confirm that all affected utility operators have responded to your request and marked underground utilities.
  4. Dig carefully around the marks with care.

Remember that privately owned underground lines will NOT be marked by location flaggers. Examples of private lines/equipment include well and septic, underground sprinkler systems, invisible fencing, gas or electric lines that serve a detached building, as well as any lines (electric, water, sewer) from the meter to your home. If you have any private utilities, you will need to hire a private utility locator.

As Call811.com says, "Know what's below." Then dig safely.

To learn more about electrical safety, visit SafeElectricity.org .

Article and spade image courtesy of SafeElectricity.org.

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