Below most people’s homes are a maze of underground utilities, such as water, sewer, natural gas, and electrical lines, to name a few. However, it’s likely that most homeowners have not given these much consideration, or maybe they assume the lines are buried so deep that any work they do will not cause damage. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, as homeowners nationwide have discovered. The problem is widespread enough that there’s a national hotline established to handle homeowner inquiries. “Call Before You Dig” is the name given to the number “811,” which connects you with the Common Ground Alliance, an agency formed to coordinate the efforts of all underground utilities. Because the various utilities are generally separate agencies, it can be difficult for a diligent homeowner to ascertain there are no worries when digging, so instead of forcing homeowners to call various agencies and hoping they reached all of them, the Common Ground Alliance through the 811 number is there to assist with just one phone call.
The process is relatively quick and simple, so there’s no reason to not call. Once you provide 811 with your planned digging information, they will have someone physically “mark” the lines on your property where you plan to dig. You may have noticed these spray-painted markings on the sidewalk or street in your neighborhood. They represent the various underground utilities that were marked when someone else inquired prior to digging.
If you do not call and hit an underground line, the consequences are usually quite serious. At a minimum, you will cause an outage to the particular utility for the local area. How would you feel if you were responsible for your neighborhood’s lack of water or electricity for several hours or even days? And the damage can be worse in bigger cities such as Fort Worth, Indianapolis, Sacramento, Oklahoma City, Omaha, – to name a few. Worse than an outage, some of the lines can cause serious injury or death. Natural gas lines can easily cause an explosion if they are hit and leak. In fact, the consequences of a gas line rupture can be deadly, as seen in the 2010 explosion in San Bruno, Calif., that killed eight people and destroyed many more homes. While that particular incident was not a result of digging, the same result could have occurred if the rupture was caused by a backhoe or trencher.
To be a responsible homeowner, call before you dig. You should also ensure that your contractor calls before doing any digging on your property. And make sure your home insurance policy is in order because this is where your personal liability coverage is very important and useful, should something occur even after taking all the necessary precautions.