Damage to underground utility lines is a major problem in the United States. Incidents caused by unsafe digging practices can compromise community safety and disconnect people from critical services. This is why the 811 service remains one of the most important national services available to contractors and homeowners.
In this article, we will be discussing what 811 Day is and why it is essential to always call 8-1-1 before you dig!
What is 811?
811 is the national call-before-you-dig phone number. Anyone who plans to dig should call 811 or go to their state 811 center’s website before digging to request that the approximate location of buried utilities be marked with paint or flags so that you don’t unintentionally dig into an underground utility line.
811 Day is an annual initiative led by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) to ensure that the practice of safe digging is echoed in communities by calling 8-1-1, a nationwide toll-free number, before any excavation project.
811 is an essential service for damage prevention and seeks to eliminate damages caused by digging, which remains the leading cause of pipeline incidents. The 811 service was enacted due to a disaster that occurred in the late ’60s, where there was a major accident on the west coast that caused major gas leakages, fires, and power outages due to improper digging. In response to this, the 811 law was passed.
The 811 law required that all companies (including utilities/government agencies) or individuals who undertake an excavation project call 811 prior to the start of the project. It also required lines and markings to be drawn around areas to indicate the presence of pipelines, cables, and/or fiber underneath the surface. Each state has its own unique processes and laws for digging.
When an 811 call is received, the call center is required to create a Locate Request Ticket referred to as a One Call ticket. Additionally, it mandated that all the utility companies respond to 811 tickets (referred to as One Call tickets) raised by the excavators with the call centers within a certain timeframe. These call centers have the important responsibility of managing, tracking, and closing these tickets with the goal of minimizing the occurrence of accidents.
Why It Is Important To Dig Safely
Every six minutes an underground utility line is damaged or destroyed because an excavator did not properly mark the warning lines before digging. The depth and placement of utility lines can vary for a number of reasons including erosion, previous digging projects, and uneven surfaces, which makes planning and preparation very important.
Making assumptions about where the utility lines are under your property can be extremely dangerous. Even striking a single line can result in injury, significant repair costs, fines, and inconvenient outages for you and your neighbors.
The odds of avoiding disaster during these dig-ins improve by nearly 99% if lines are properly marked in advance. If protocols are not followed and 811 is not consulted, there can be significant damages -- not just to the immediate area, but the entire community.
When excavators follow the federal guidelines and ensure they are digging properly, damages and accidents can be avoided. This is what makes 811 so important - it provides a very useful service to mitigate accidents and damages!
One of the major organizations promoting safe digging and Damage Prevention is the Common Ground Alliance (CGA). It is a member-driven alliance committed to saving lives and preventing damage to North American underground infrastructure by promoting effective damage prevention practices.
Membership in the CGA is open to all stakeholders with a genuine interest in reducing damages to the underground infrastructure. CGA’s top-tier members represent some of the largest companies and organizations in North America.
How To Dig Safely
Excavators must take a proactive approach to safety by utilizing the 811 One-Call System and adhering to the following steps of a safe excavation:
Always call before you dig.
Federal and state laws require you to place a locate request prior to digging or excavating. It is also good practice to ensure you know about the area you are going to dig.
Wait the required time.
Once you call, you will need to wait in order for the call center to determine the details of your site and project. Do not begin excavating prior to your stated start date and time.
Confirm Utility Response
After the call center has notified member utilities of the pending excavation, you are responsible for making sure each utility operator has responded prior to digging.
Respect the Marks
Familiarize yourself with the markings and the locations of buried facilities at the site prior to excavation.
Dig With Care!
Dig test holes to verify the location, type, size, direction-of-run, and depth of the marked facility. Remember - you can never be too careful in these situations!
As you can tell, the call centers that handle the one-call ticketing processes play a crucial role in damage prevention. Also, the improvements in efficiency with which the utilities respond to these tickets will result in significantly reduced damages and accidents.
BOSS Solutions created an industry-leading cloud-based One Call ticketing solution with this objective in mind. BOSS811 is a cloud-based One Call ticket management solution for municipalities, utilities, and locator companies managing excavation requests.
It comes with an award-winning UI and easy navigation. With facility map integration, it provides a visual component for effective management and tracking of dig requests. The powerful ticket screening capability makes it easy to close tickets automatically or alert appropriate locators.
BOSS Solutions is a proud partner in damage prevention.
About the Author:
Kristin Reed is a Senior Support Engineer with BOSS Solutions. Kristin has been part of the Damage Prevention Industry for 11 years. She is committed to helping utilities and locators protect their facilities and keeping excavators safe at the dig site.