Call 811 before you dig

Protect yourself and your community — always contact 811 before starting a digging project, no matter how small.

Planting shrubs or trees? Putting up a basketball hoop or installing a mailbox? Building a deck, a fence, or pouring concrete for a patio? In all of these cases, you need to contact 811 before you start digging. 

What is 811?

811 is the national call-before-you-dig phone number. Anyone who plans to dig on their property should call 811 or go to their state’s 811 center website a few business days before digging to request that the approximate location of buried utilities be marked with paint or flags. This helps to ensure you won’t unintentionally hit an underground utility line.

Underground gas, electric, communications, water and sewer lines get damaged every 3 minutes from digging mishaps. People usually say they didn't call because they thought they knew where the lines were or they didn't think they were digging deep enough to cause a problem. 

According to the Common Ground Alliance (CGA), "There are more than 100 billion feet of underground utilities in the United States. That figure equates to more than one football field.s length (105 yards) of buried utilities for every man, woman and child in the U.S."

The 811 service protects you and your community. Hitting a buried line while digging can disrupt utility service, cost money to repair, and even cause serious injury or death. 

How it works

811 is free and easy to use:

  1. 3-4 days before digging, either call 811 from anywhere in the U.S. or make a request through your state’s 811 center website
  2. Tell the operator where you plan to dig.
  3. Wait for someone to mark your underground lines, pipes and cables.
  4. Start your project.

When you dial 811, you will automatically be connected to a representative from your state’s 811 center. They will ask you a few questions about your location and your digging project. You can also enter the same information online. After completing the request, you will receive a ticket number and be told the expected response time, as well as how to confirm that all utilities have been marked before you can safely dig.

Do I need to contact 811?

Yes! Even projects you might think are “small,” like planting flowers or installing a mailbox, require you to contact 811. Many utilities are buried just a few inches below ground, and you could easily hit a line when digging, even to plant small shrubs. Contact your 811 center every time you’re putting a shovel in the ground to keep yourself and your community safe.

Did you know? Erosion and root growth can shift the locations of utility lines over time, and utility companies may have completed work on their lines since the last time you dug. So even if you've had your property marked previously, be sure to call 811 again, each and every time you are planning a new digging job.

When can I begin my digging project?

State laws vary, but generally, utility companies have a few days to respond to your request. Utilities will send out locators, who will come to your dig site to mark the approximate location of buried utilities with paint or flags. Each utility type corresponds to a specific color of paint or a flag — for example, gas lines are marked with yellow. You must use the information on your ticket to wait and confirm that ALL utilities have marked the area before you dig.

Tip: If you want to work on your project over the weekend, plan ahead. Call on Monday or Tuesday to get someone scheduled to mark your property in advance.

What's next?

You’ve called before digging, waited for your lines to be marked, and confirmed that all utilities responded to your request. Great, now it's time to roll up your sleeves and get to work! Make sure to dig carefully around all utility marks, not on them. Some lines may be buried at a shallow depth, and an unintended shovel thrust can bring you right back to square one — facing potentially dangerous or costly consequences. 

The bottom line… Never let digging work begin without contacting 811 first! It’s not worth the risk.

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