April is National Safe Digging Month! Underneath our feet every day are a variety of utility lines – internet, electricity, water, gas, phone – depending upon what area you happen to be in. All of these underground utilities are vulnerable when people start digging around in streets, sidewalks, or even in their own yard! Whether you’re at work or at home, you need to know what below and should call before you dig!
Every nine minutes, an underground utility line is damaged when someone begins digging without calling. Even simple things, like planting shrubs or trees, putting in fence posts or mailboxes, or building a porch or deck, can require a phone call to have utility lines officially located before digging can begin. Failure to call before you dig could result in property damage, injury to yourself, family, or coworkers, the loss of utility services for yourself and those in the community through outages, and, oh yeah, it’s the law, so fines and repair costs!
You do NOT need to call in before digging if:
- The person doing the digging is a tenant or an owner of private property;
- The digging is happening on the private property of that tenant or owner;
- The digging is not happening within an established easement; and
- The digging will be less than 12 inches deep
All other digging requires a call in order for the location of utilities to be officially located, even if the digging is less than 12 inches.
If you still need to call, here’s what you need to know:
- Here in Oregon, you can call 811 or 1-800-332-2344 for free! The Utility Notification Center is open 24/7!
- You should call for a locate request a minimum of two days before you need to start digging to give them the time needed to do the “locates”. Weekends and holidays do not count!
- In order to make sure all of the proper utility companies are contacted and given a chance to provide locates, be ready to provide the representative who answers the phone with all of the required information:
- Your name, phone number, mailing address, and company name (if calling for work);
- The work or type of work being done (why are you digging? Are you planting trees? Building something? This gives them an idea of how the ground and surrounding ground might be effected – putting a post into the ground is different than planting a tree that will have an expanding root system!);
- Who the work is being done for;
- The address where the work is taking place OR
- The street and cross street where the work is taking place AND
- The distance and direction from the cross street;
- The city and/or county where the work is taking place;
- Marking instructions )specific instructions regarding where the work is taking place)
- Other helpful information to have on hand that is not required (unless otherwise specified):
- An alternate contact’s name and phone number;
- The nearest cross street (unless you do not provide an address, in which case this is required);
- The distance and direction from the cross street (unless you do not provide an address, in which case this is required);
- Township, range section, and quarter section or GPS coordinates of the work locations
- Have a pencil and paper ready to write down your ticket number, the list of the underground utility owners that will be contacted, and the time frame you can expect lines to be located. Your ticket number provides proof of your call and is the only information that the Utility Notification Center can use to pull up your information again. If anything goes wrong will digging that list of utility owners will give you a quick reference for who to call!
- Even with the information you have provided on the phone, it is helpful to pre-mark the proposed digging areas so that the workers can see and mark the exact location for you. This can save you time and even money if there is any confusion about where your digging location is meant to be.
- WAIT! It usually takes 2-5 days (not counting weekends or holidays!) for workers to come out and locate utilities. They will leave either paint markings or flags to alert you to the location of your underground utilities so that you can plan and dig around them. Do not start digging until the workers have come out and done the locates! You can still be responsible for fines and repair costs if you do not wait!
- Start digging! After the workers have located your lines, you can begin digging – being careful to avoid the marked areas!
- If you need to do another digging job at a later date, you must call again. Root structure growth from trees and other plants, erosion, etc. can slightly change your utility lines over time so it is important to call before you dig every dig!
Happy digging, planting, and building!