Saturday, May 5, 2012

Digging? Phone 811

Telephone numbers: 911 for emergency response; 411 for directory assistance; 311 for doing business with city government; 811 for finding out what’s underground before you dig. Five year ago this month, Common Ground Alliance was formed to unify and centralize response to inquiries about locating underground utilities so contractors and others can dig without disturbing them. The number is available to everyone from general contractors and excavators to homeowners and landscapers who might be planning to disturb the soil.

The nationwide one call number 811 was initially approved by the FCC in March 2005 to bring uniformity to the underground lines information services with differing phone numbers in separate regions of the U.S. In April 2007, Common Ground Alliance was charged with implementing the 811 system nationwide, and in 2006 North Carolina became the first state to fully implement the program. Though some contractors keep old phone numbers in their speed dial, up to 70% of underground utility location service calls are now made through 811.

CGA’s educational efforts respecting 811 calls now have equipment rental companies posting the 811 number on the cab doors of excavators and backhoes, CGA offers 811 decals in English and Spanish, customized with company logos. Now the non-profit organization is initiating outreach programs to homeowners and fencing installers, reminding us that fences almost always go in near property lines, just where underground utility easements are most likely located. A single post hole crossing a utility line can result in service interruptions, leaks, explosions, property damage and bodily injury or death, CGA warns. One call to 811 will result in every underground utility with lines in the area coming out to a property to clearly mark the locations of their facilities.

CGA President Bob Kipp says it succinctly: “Call 811 before you dig!”

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