SYRACUSE, NY –– Knowing where underground utility lines are buried before you dig can prevent serious injury, property damage and service interruptions from accidental damage to electric, gas, telephone, water, sewer, cable or fiber optic systems. Before undertaking yardwork and other activities that involve digging, National Grid reminds customers to follow the law and call 811 so that local utilities can mark the location of underground lines. The service is available free of charge.
April is designated as National Safe Digging Month to bring awareness to the injuries, lost productivity and repair costs related to digging without knowing where underground utility lines are buried. Every nine minutes, an underground utility line in the United States is damaged because someone didn’t contact 811 before digging. Striking an underground utility line can cause injury, repair costs, fines, and inconvenient outages. Requests submitted by contacting 811 will generate a work order to local utilities who will visit your work site and mark the location of their lines with flags, spray paint or both.
If you’re planning on digging, observe the following steps:
Mark your workspace in white. Determine the spaces where you plan to dig and note the edges with white spray paint. This will alert the locators when they arrive and provide them with a precise work location. Locators are required to mark any utilities within 15 feet of your specified work area. Without pre-marking locators will assume your entire property is the work zone and will mark up the entire space.
Call 811 to submit your request at least two and up to 10 business days before the start date of your project. During the request process, you will provide the address where you intend to work. Retain the reference number provided to confirm your request.
Wait before digging. New York State law requires utilities to respond within two business days or before the intended start date. Each utility will mark your workzone with a different color pain or flag to mark the location of their lines. Do not start working before the date your provided to 811.
Identify the tolerance zone. A tolerance zone for each installation should be identified to keep you and the buried utilities safe. This is a space of one-half of the known diameter plus 24 inches, on either side of the designated center line. If the diameter is unknown, the zone is 24 inches on either size of the designated center line.
Dig safely. Once work is complete, you can begin digging. If you must dig within the tolerance zone, verify the location, type, size and direction of the run and depth of the line. Dig test holes by hand, not mechanized equipment to inspect the area before using an earthmover or backhoe.
Calling 811 will not identify private utility lines, such as underground wiring to lamp posts, sprinkler systems and other water services, propane lines and tanks, septic systems and leach fields, sump pump, generators, invisible dog fencing, sewer laterals, or electric service extensions to swimming pools, landscaping or other installation. Private locating companies can be hired to perform this work.
Failure to call 811 may be punishable by fines. New York State law allows to be penalized up to $2,500 for the first offense and up to $10,000 for each subsequent violation within a 12-month period, as well as be held liable for repair costs.
Even when digging only a few inches or digging in a location that’s previously been marked, the risk of striking an underground utility line still exists. A call to 811 is the best safeguard and the first line of defense to preventing strikes on underground utility lines.