Digging without Locates – Don’t Do It!

When homeowners think of underground excavation, the images that come to mind are large heavy equipment and men in hard hats and reflective vests who move large amounts of earth with their behemoth diesel drinking machines. So it’s really not surprising that do it yourself (DIY) homeowners who decide to embark on home improvement projects such as installing a new pool or sprinkler system, burying an invisible dog fence, building a foundation for a deck or something as simple as planting a tree can find themselves in a precarious and sometimes dangerous situations when they suddenly hit something beneath the ground they never realized was buried on their property.

In some cases, homeowners may literally get shocked from hidden, underground utilities and in extreme and severe cases, death has occurred from digging without locating underground assets. Underground, buried utilities such as water, gas, electric, phone, cable, and Internet can go undiscovered and/or forgotten for several years, until unsuspecting homeowners begin excavating on their property or in easement areas that they mistake for their property. Not all these buried assets post a deadly threat if damaged; however, loss of utility services can occur and can oftentimes result in costly repairs and/or fines.

Warning Use Extreme Caution:

You must be careful whenever you decide to begin any kind of digging, trenching or if you are planning on having any kind of underground directional boring | directional drilling conducted on your property. In these cases it is important that you contact your states local “One Call” utility protection provider, so that they can locate and mark the location of all underground assets in the area where you plan to work. Visit call 811.com to find your local “One Call” provider.

You should know that even if you call for utility locates, the “One Call” services only services public utilities (assets). If you believe you have other underground assets such as a private gas line, power line, or water line that was installed by you or someone else, you may want to contact a private locating service company. Again, think safety first – no job is so important that you cannot afford to take the time to protect yourself or your family from injury.

What to Expect:

Locating companies use sophisticated electronic equipment and have the training to interpret the signals (tones) they receive. Electromagnetic signals are obtained when locating metal pipes by attaching a transmitter to the pipe or a locate wire that was installed with the pipe at the time of its placement. Other methods use sound waves to detect non-metalic objects or pipes that are in the ground.

Once you have identified your local “One-Call” provider, you can call or complete an online locate ticket request. Depending on where you live you can typically expect locators to arrive at your location within 2 to 4 days. You will receive a ticket or what is commonly referred to as a “dig number” and a “good on date”.

The dig number is important as it is proof that you called and requested utility locates. The Good-On-Date is the date that you should be able to proceed with your project. This time usually accommodates the time it takes for the locators to arrive at your job location.

You will notice bio-degradable paint markings of different colors, each distinguishing gas, water, and phone utilities. Additionally, some locating companies will place different color flags in conjunction with painted markings. If you do not see locates (i.e. Paint and Flags) by the date given to you for your locate ticket DO NOT proceed with your excavation activities. You most likely are required by local state law to make a second request to your “One-Call” provider. When you call back to notify “One Call” that your promised locates were not provided, your ticket will be escalated. A utility locating crew will immediately be routed to your location to provide you with the locates for which you are waiting. Escalated ticket response times range between 2 and 4 hours.

So what happens if, after calling a second time, the locators still do not show up? Well, this is a gray area and depending on who you speak with, you may hear that you can proceed and that if you hit something, it is the responsibility of the locating and utility company to resolve. Yes, maybe legally you can proceed…maybe…but remember, if you hit something you may not just damage something in the ground; you may actually damage yourself! So when you are tempted to proceed or just ignore the locating process, just keep this in mind. What is a bigger hassle: making a phone call or dying?

Think about it, then CALL before you dig!

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