August 11 is almost here, and Westfield Gas + Electric hopes that the 8/11 date on the calendar will serve as a natural reminder for residents to call 811 at least 72 hours prior to any digging project to have underground utility lines marked. With more people at home during pandemic restrictions, and summer a peak time to work on home improvement projects, it’s more timely than ever to remember to dig safely.
Every few minutes, an underground utility line is damaged because someone decided to dig without first contacting 811. Striking a single line can cause serious injury, inconvenient outages, repair costs, and fines. With more people staying home and relying on their utilities to work and communicate, inconvenient outages are important to avoid. Every digging project, no matter the size, warrants contacting 811 by phone or online. Installing a mailbox, building a deck, planting a tree and laying a patio are just some examples of projects that need a call to 811 before you begin.
When calling 811, homeowners and contractors are connected to Dig Safe, the local one-call center, which notifies the appropriate utility companies of their intent to dig. [Requests can also be made online at www.digsafe.com.] Professional locators then arrive at the digging site to mark the approximate locations of underground lines with flags, spray paint or both.
“On Aug. 11 and throughout the year, we remind homeowners and professional contractors alike to use the free 811 service before digging to reduce the risk of striking an underground utility line,” said Tony Contrino, General Manager for Westfield Gas + Electric. “Especially at a time when we’re relying on important utilities to connect us and keep us safe at home, calling 811 or visiting www.digsafe.com is really the only way to know which utilities are buried in your area so that you dig safely.”
The depth of utility lines can vary for a number of reasons, such as erosion, previous digging projects and uneven surfaces. Utility lines need to be properly marked because 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.