SAN FRANCISCO, Calif – As the calendar turns to April and spring temperatures arrive, home improvement and construction work steadily increases. Since these projects often require digging and excavation, it is appropriate that April is designated as National Safe Digging Month.
This nationwide public safety initiative is supported by Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) and more than 1,000 other utilities to raise awareness about the importance of having underground utility lines marked in advance of any digging project.
According to the Common Ground Alliance’s damage information reporting tool, an underground utility line is damaged every nine minutes in the United States. PG&E is urging customers to help prevent dig-ins by placing a toll-free call to 811 or an online request to have gas and electric lines marked free of charge at least two working days before the project begins.
“Last year, failure to call before digging resulted in more than 1,700 third-party digs ins to PG&E’s underground utility lines. These dig ins occurred during projects of all sizes, ranging from residential fence installation to major construction. Whether you are a contractor or a homeowner, calling 811 before you dig will help avoid injury or property damage and costly repairs that may result from striking underground gas or electric lines,” said PG&E Gas Operations Senior Vice President Jesus Soto.
Contractors with projects of all sizes are required by California Government Code 4216 to call 811 to have underground lines marked before digging, including contractors hired by a homeowner.
- In 2018, there were over 1,700 third-party dig-ins on PG&E’s underground infrastructure across Northern and Central California.
- Of the over 1,700 dig-ins, nearly half resulted from not using 811 to have gas and electric lines marked in advance.
- Of the third-party (customers or construction crews) dig-ins to PG&E’s lines in 2018, residential dig-ins accounted for 22 percent.
- In 86% of residential dig-ins, 811 was not called in advance.
811 is a designated toll-free number for homeowners and professional excavators and is serviced by regional offices. Operators answering calls and emails will dispatch all necessary utilities to properly mark underground utility lines with paint or flags. Underground Service Alert of Northern/Central California and Nevada (USA North) is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and will provide Spanish and other translation services.
PG&E Safe Digging Tips:
Mark project area in white: Identify the digging location by drawing a box around the area using white paint, white stakes, white flags, white chalk or even white baking flour.
- Call 811 or go online for a USA ticket at least two working days before digging: Be prepared to provide the address and general location of the project, project start date and type of digging activity. PG&E and other utilities will identify underground facilities in the area for free.
- Dig safely: Use hand tools when digging within 24 inches of the outside edge of underground utility lines. Leave utility flags, stakes or paint marks in place until the project is finished. Backfill and compact the soil.
- Mind the lines: If the utility line is visible, dig in parallel with the utility line and use all precautions when removing the soil from around the utility line.
- Be aware of signs of a natural gas leak: Smell for a “rotten egg” odor, listen for hissing, whistling or roaring sounds and look for dirt spraying into the air, bubbling in a pond or creek and dead/dying vegetation in an otherwise moist area.
PG&E urges customers to call 911 and PG&E at 1-800-743-5000 if there’s a suspected gas leak. If an accidental dent, scrape or other damage is made to a gas pipeline, those nearby must leave immediately and alert others to avoid the area. Only when a safe distance away, should anything that might create a spark such as cell phones, matches, garage door openers, vehicles, or yard equipment be used.
About P, a subsidiary of PG&E Corporation (NYSE:PCG), is one of the largest combined natural gas and electric energy companies in the United States. Based in San Francisco, with more than 20,000 employees, the company delivers some of the nation’s cleanest energy to nearly 16 million people in Northern and Central California.