Whether you are planning a giant home improvement project or just planting one tree, any project that involves digging has the potential to be extremely dangerous.
According to data collected by the Common Ground Alliance (CGA) from various industry groups, there are more than 20 million miles of underground utilities in the United States. Since many utilities are buried just a few inches below the ground, striking a line is a real possibility when digging for even the most simple gardening project.
What Can Happen When I Hit a Line?
Hitting a utility line with an excavator or a shovel can cause serious damage to gas, electric, communications, water, and sewer lines. Think about all the things those lines are used for. There is a long list of implications that can come with hitting a utility line, including the following:
- Knocking out service to your home and neighborhood. You and your neighbors won’t be happy if you knock out the lights and cable. This can also be extremely dangerous if someone needs to call 911 from a landline.
- Flooding. A burst in a water line can cause large geysers that not only waste water, but create a huge mess in your yard.
- Electric shock. A break in an electric wire can cause serious electrocution, possibly leading to severe injury or even death, depending on the amount of electricity and the victim’s health.
- Gas poisoning. A leak in a gas pipe can cause carbon monoxide poisoning and the extremely unpleasant associated issues including dizziness, nausea, or even loss of consciousness.
- Paying thousands of dollars in repairs. You likely won’t only be paying to fix the break in the utility line — it may also come with hefty fines.
Call 811 Before You Dig
Despite all of the common, dangerous, and costly consequences, about 38.6 million people will dig this year without having underground utility lines marked ahead of time. But CGA is working to change that, having created a nationwide resource for anyone to call before they dig.
People nationwide can call 811 a few days before they plan to dig, and explain what they’re going to be doing and where. The one-call center will alert all affected utility operators, who will then send a representative to your house to mark the locations of all of their company’s utility lines near your project.
Even if the area has been marked in the past, it’s still important to call 811 before every project involving digging. Erosion and root system growth may have changed the depth or location of the buried lines. Your utility company may have also carried out work since the last time you dug. A quick call to 811 will give you peace of mind before you take up a shovel.
Whether or not you’ve hired a contractor to do the digging for you, make sure the utility lines have been marked before anyone breaks ground. Fletcher’s Plumbing & Contracting Inc. is a certified excavator with the Gold Shovel Standard Certification. That means we’ve made a commitment to safe digging practices in accordance with the California “One Call Law” and the CGA best practices for excavation.
If you have an upcoming project involving digging in California, contact Fletcher’s today at (530) 673-2489. We’ll make sure your utility lines are marked and safe from start to finish, saving you a lot of potential financial and logistical heartache.