Sure, “April showers, bring May’s Flower’s,” but it is also the kickoff of National Safe Digging Month (NSDM). Each year, in April, the Federal Communications Commission pushes initiatives to inform utility workers, homeowners, contractors, or any individual intending to dig, the importance of calling 811 before your outdoor project begins.

Whether you’re installing a mailbox, cultivating a garden, or planting a tree, it is an absolute necessity to call 811 before you dig. According to the Common Ground Alliance, every 9 minutes, an underground line is struck because someone decided to dig without first calling 811. With some utility lines being buried only a few inches underground, there is always the chance of damaging a line that could cause serious bodily harm and even death.

Here are some best practices to keep in mind when you get that itch this spring to dive into the dirt.

  1. Planning the Process– If you know you are getting ready to start an outdoor project that will involve getting down and dirty, plan accordingly. If you plan on digging in only a small portion of your yard, outline the area with white marking paint or white marking flags to ensure that only utilities within that perimeter are located and marked. To find a local supplier of marking products such as these, check out Presco’s “Where to Buy” page.
  2. Wait Time– Once you have notified 811 of your proposed project(s), they will reach out to several utility locators who will be required to come out and mark your buried lines (typically 7-8 utility personnel will visit you onsite).
  3. Know Your Colors– Although this is not necessary, it is highly suggested that you understand the different types of colors associated with your underground utility lines:

    APWA Color Chart

              RED- Electrical

              YELLOW- Gas, Oil, Steam

              ORANGE- Communication

              BLUE- Water

              GREEN- Sewer

              PURPLE- Reclaimed Water

              PINK- Temporary Survey Marking

              WHITE- Proposed construction

No matter the reason behind your project, it is important to be aware of the repercussions that can ensue should you not follow proper protocols set out by your federal, state, and even municipal facilities. To find out more about your state’s specific processes and laws, visit the 811 website for more information.