In observance of National Safe Digging Month in April, Westfield Gas + Electric is sharing results from a recent national survey, which revealed that a third of U.S. homeowners (33%) reported experiencing a utility service interruption during the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, of the 19.5 million U.S. homeowners who plan to dig this year for projects like gardening, building a fence or deck, installing a mailbox and more, nearly two in five (37%) will put themselves and their communities at risk by digging without contacting 811 beforehand to learn the approximate location of underground utilities.
Digging without knowing the approximate location of underground utilities can result in serious injuries, inconvenient service disruptions and costly repairs when gas, electric, communications, water and sewer lines are damaged. Making a free call to 811 before digging will help homeowners maintain essential utility service for themselves and neighbors and keep communities safe by reducing the likelihood of accidentally digging into buried utility lines.
“There is no question that access to essential utility services is important to communities across the country. Given the current environment, disruptions to internet and phone services are particularly problematic, especially with so many people relying on these services more than ever to complete work, school and so much more,” said Tom Flaherty, WG+E General Manager. “The survey showed that millions of homeowners are using their extra time at home to complete projects that require digging, so it’s of the utmost importance that homeowners make a free call to 811 prior to digging. Doing so will help keep communities safe and connected to the critical utility services we all rely on every day.”
The national public opinion survey of homeowners conducted in late February by the Common Ground Alliance (CGA), the national association dedicated to protecting underground utility lines, people who dig near them, and their communities, also revealed that one in five American homeowners (20%) have been more likely to do a DIY home improvement involving digging since the pandemic began – particularly gardening projects: 56% of homeowners who are planning to plant a tree or shrub this year said they were more likely to dig during the pandemic. The most popular planned projects cited among surveyed homeowners who plan to dig include planting a tree or shrub (62%), building a fence (37%), building a deck or patio (32%), installing a mailbox (20%), installing a pool (6%), something else (26%).
As part of National Safe Digging Month, Westfield Gas + Electric encourages homeowners to take the following steps when planning a digging project this spring:
- Always call 811 at least 72 hours before digging, regardless of the depth or familiarity with the property.
- Plan ahead. Call on Monday or Tuesday for work planned for an upcoming weekend, providing ample time for the approximate location of lines to be marked.
- Confirm that all lines have been marked.
- Consider moving the location of your project if it is near utility line markings.
- If a contractor has been hired, confirm that the contractor has called 811. Don’t allow work to begin if the lines aren’t marked.
Everyone who calls 811 is connected to a local one call notification center (Dig Safe in Massachusetts) that will take the caller’s information and communicate it to local utility companies. Professional locators will then visit the dig site to mark the approximate location of underground utility lines with spray paint, flags or both. Once a site has been accurately marked, it is safe to begin digging around the marked areas. Visit www.call811.com for additional information.