SAN FRANCISCO — Tuesday, Aug. 11, was National Safe Digging Day, serving as a reminder to PG&E customers, contractors and anyone digging to call 811 a minimum of two business days prior to starting any digging project, no matter how large or small.
Dialing 811 is a free service, and utility workers will mark the location of any underground lines, helping individuals to dig safely and avoid injuries and potential fatalities as well as repair costs and fines. With more people at home during pandemic restrictions, and summer a peak time to work on home improvement projects, it’s more important than ever that residents remember to dig safely.
When calling 811, homeowners and contractors are connected to USA North, the local one call center, which notifies the appropriate utility companies of their intent to dig. Requests can also be made online at http://811express.com/. Professional locators then arrive at the digging site to mark the approximate locations of underground lines with flags, spray paint or both.
“On Aug. 11, and throughout the year, we remind homeowners and professional contractors alike to use the free 811 service before digging to reduce the risk of striking an underground utility line. At a time when many are working from home, calling 811 is really the only way to know which utilities are buried in your area so that you can dig safely and keep your family, friends and neighbors safe and connected to essential utilities like gas, electric, water and internet,” said Vince Gaeto, senior director, PG&E Gas Operations.
Every few minutes each day, an underground utility line is damaged across the nation because someone decided to dig without first contacting 811. Striking a single line can cause injury, result in significant repair costs or inconvenient outages. With more people staying home and relying on their utilities to work and communicate, inconvenient outages are important to avoid.
Every digging project, no matter how large or small, warrants contacting 811 by phone or online. Installing a mailbox, building a deck, planting a tree and laying a patio are just some examples of digging projects that need a call to 811 before starting.
The depth of utility lines can vary for a number of reasons, such as erosion, previous digging projects and uneven surfaces. Utility lines need to be properly marked because even when digging only a few inches or digging in a location that’s previously been marked, the risk of striking an underground utility line still exists. A call to 811 is the best safeguard and the first line of defense to preventing strikes on underground utility lines.
- In 2019, there were over 1,600 third-party (customers or construction crews) dig-ins on PG&E’s underground infrastructure across Northern and Central California.
- Of the over 1,600 dig-ins, nearly 800 resulted from not using 811 to have gas and electric lines marked in advance.
- Of the third-party dig-ins to PG&E’s lines in 2019, residential dig-ins accounted for 25% percent.
- In 89% of residential dig-ins, 811 was not called in advance.
PG&E Safe Digging Tips
- Mark project area in white: Identify the digging location by drawing a box around the area using white paint, white stakes, white flags, white chalk or even white baking flour.
- Call 811 or submit an online request a minimum of two working days before digging: Be prepared to provide the address and general location of the project, project start date and type of digging activity.
- PG&E and other utilities will identify underground facilities in the area for free. Requests can be submitted a maximum of 14 days prior to the start of the project.
- Dig safely: Use hand tools when digging within 24 inches of the outside edge of underground lines. Leave utility flags, stakes or paint marks in place until the project is finished. Backfill and compact the soil.
- Be aware of signs of a natural gas leak: Smell for a “rotten egg” odor, listen for hissing, whistling or roaring sounds and look for dirt spraying into the air, bubbling in a pond or creek and dead/dying vegetation in an otherwise moist area.
Pacific Gas and Electric Company, a subsidiary of PG&E Corporation (NYSE:PCG), is one of the largest combined natural gas and electric energy companies in the United States. Based in San Francisco, with more than 23,000 employees, the company delivers some of the nation’s cleanest energy to 15 million people in Northern and Central California.