The sewer and sanitation industry is quite familiar with the phrase “out of sight, out of mind.” It’s a big part of what we do.
That’s why the 811 “Call Before You Dig” service was created - to make sure that contractors, homeowners and everyone in between is aware that digging into the earth is more involved than you might think.
Why Should I Call First?
Utility lines can be buried at various depths, and multiple utility lines can be located in a common area. If you don’t call before you dig, utilities can be damaged and service can be disrupted - sometimes to an entire neighborhood.
Damaging utility lines can also harm you and those around you, and potentially lead to fines or repair costs.
According to call811.com, every digging job requires notifying local utility companies, from small projects like backyard plantings to full-scale excavations.
Southern California’s underground service alert program, known as DigAlert, was established in 1976 after a construction crew in Culver City accidentally breached an underground petroleum pipeline. The resultant explosion killed nine people and burned an entire city block to the ground. DigAlert was established three months later to prevent similar accidents from occurring.
Calling 811 before a digging job will help prevent dangerous consequences, and allow the local utility company to mark any underground lines at no cost to you. Your call will be routed to a local operator, who will take down where you plan to dig and the work you will be doing.
The local utility company will be notified, and within two working days, a locator will come to your site and mark the approximate location of any underground cables, lines and pipes, so you can dig safely.
"Call Before You Dig" Contractor Checklist
- California law states that contractors must contact DigAlert before beginning excavation work, regardless of whether the job is on public, private or commercial property.
- Local utilities have two full working days to mark their lines. Workers may not perform any excavation during that time.
- The excavation area must be outlined accurately. This delineation guide provides instructions for ensuring the area is marked properly for the project’s needs.
- Have a record of your request to dig at the job site. This is not a requirement, but if you discover unmarked utility lines or accidentally damage one, the information helps DigAlert reference your location quickly and easily. Having records on site also provides proof of compliance if a law officer or utility owner stops by.
- If you hit a utility line, you must notify the affected utility. Contact DigAlert to report it and get contact numbers for the utility. Contact the utility even if there is no obvious issue, as there may be internal damage.
- If anything is released into the air, such as natural gas, leave the area immediately and protect your work crew. Do not try to repair or slow the leak yourself, and call 911 right after clearing the area.