What to Know Before Any Home Project Involving Digging

(StatePoint) When you look down at the ground you may not realize the millions of miles of buried utility infrastructure that keeps society clothed, fed, powered, connected, and a whole lot more. Unfortunately, many of us are on an out-of-sight, out-of-mind basis with the pipes, wires, and cables situated right under our feet, and this can have disastrous consequences when we try to dig without doing our homework first.

Having recently connected with several experts in the field as part of the National Excavator Initiative, Mike Rowe, CEO of the mikeroweWORKS Foundation and best known from the hit shows “Dirty Jobs,” “Deadliest Catch,” and “Returning the Favor,” is urging everyone who digs, whether it be a professional excavator or homeowner, to call 811 before starting their projects, as well as to learn more about excavation safety and why it matters.

“Isn’t it funny that the things we rely on the most – our water, electricity, gas, cable – we ultimately take for granted and, in many ways, wind up resenting?” muses Rowe, who points out that many people are surprised and even annoyed to learn that they can’t just start digging on their own property without first calling 811. “What I learned is that calling 811 in advance of a dig is the single most important way excavators can ensure safety and prevent damage.”

One such expert Rowe spoke to, put it in no uncertain terms.

“The message I like to give is ‘call 811 so you don’t have to call 911’,” says Erica Fink, Energy Business Continuity Consultant of Xcel Energy. Fink is one of a series of underground damage prevention experts interviewed by Rowe. A new expert video is being released each month and focuses on key steps of the 811 process. Four videos have been released to date and highlight what’s underground, the importance of the issue, safety, and the notification process. Check them out at www.safeexcavator.com/meet-the-experts.

If you are planning a project that requires digging, know that digging laws vary by state, and finding the specific information you’re looking for can be a challenge. Get in the know by downloading the free Safe Excavator app from Apple or Google stores. The app outlines state-specific requirements for excavation, connects to one call (811) notification centers so users can make a locate request, and provides a safe digging checklist to help your project go smoothly.

Most states require you to call 811 two to three days in advance of your dig. Pipeline and utility representatives will be sent to mark the approximate location of underground utilities and cables using color-coded paint, flags, or stakes so you (or your contractor) can safely dig around them. Not only is calling 811 the law, it can protect you, and those around you, from injury, save your community from disruption of the vital utilities it relies on, and help you avoid potential fines and repair costs.

Always dig with care. Doing so is a simple process and will protect you, your community and the environment.

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