By Paul Netter
Southern California Edison
If you dig into the facts, you’ll find that nearly 40% of the estimated 31 million homeowners planning digging projects across the country this year will do so without first calling 811.
You’ll also quickly find that it is not only ill-advised but also a hazardous decision that leads to unintentional dig-ins to buried electrical, gas, water and phone lines as well as fiber-optic cable. In California, there are thousands of unintentional dig-ins every year and hundreds of thousands of dig-ins nationwide. These dig-ins can result in power outages, explosions, injuries and even death, as well as potential liability for the damages.
With National 811 Day on Aug. 11, Southern California Edison reminds homeowners and contractors that the only way to safely begin any digging project around the country’s more than 200 million miles of underground utilities is to call 811 or schedule an appointment online at least two working days before to have underground utility lines identified and marked for free.
To prepare for the utilities’ free markings, homeowners or contractors should pre-mark the area where the digging will take place with white paint, stakes with white flags, chalk or materials like flour or sugar.
SCE offers additional safety tips to homeowners and others working on digging projects, including:
- California law requires that you call two working days before your planned excavation, excluding the date of notification.
- If a contractor is doing the digging, confirm that they have called 811. No work should begin unless the utility lines are marked.
- Consider moving your project’s location if it is too close to utility line markings.
- Use a fiberglass shovel when digging around buried electrical lines.
- Hand tools should be used when digging within 18-24 inches of the outside edge of underground utilities, and utility flags, stakes or paint should be left in place until the project is finished.
- If the utility line is visible, dig in parallel with the utility line and use all precautions when removing the soil from around the utility line.
- If you hit a utility line or encounter any other electrical hazard such as a down wire, stay away and call 911 or SCE at 1-800-611-1911 immediately.