Call 811 so you don’t have to call 911

April is national Safe Digging Month, and that makes sense now that spring is in full swing and people are once again going outside to work on projects. Cherokee Ballard, communications manager with ONG, described what Safe Digging Month is all about. 

“Utility lines are buried underground many times and they could be anything from natural gas to electrical lines, to digital cable, to water or sewer,” Ballard said. “So it’s important for people to call 811 before they do any digging to ensure there’s not going to be any interruption of service.”

Ballard went on to say that dialing 811 is actually the state law and it is required before doing any sort of digging. This could be for a new deck or pool, or even something as simple as planting a new row of shrubs.

Ballard said that the call is free and the line is open 24/7.

“When you call 811, they create a ticket and then they reach out to the different agencies who have underground infrastructure,” Ballard said. She said it is the people from the agencies that will come out and mark where any underground lines are buried. Often these markings are done with flags or spray paint.

“They’ll be out within 48 hours,” Ballard said. “We also like to push for people to make sure to get that positive response.” 

In other words, if 48 hours has passed and you do not see any markings, make sure to call 811 to confirm that someone has actually come out to mark the lines. Striking a line currently in use leads to outages in the best situations, and in the worst situation it could be deadly.

“If you’re out digging and smell natural gas, make sure to leave the area, call 911, and then call us on our emergency number at 1-800-458-4251,” Ballard said.