Update: Common Ground Alliance, the US Department of Transportation, the Federal Communications Commission, Members of Congress, the Associated General Contractors of America, John Deere and Travelers Insurance have all come together to create a national call before you dig line; Just dial 811, or visit www.call811.com.

As spring and summer bring more utility work, ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR reminds you to call before you dig. Be mindful of underground utilities. In Southern California, to find where utility lines are located, call Underground Services Alert (USA) at 800.227.2600. Similar services may be available in your area.

Natural gas pipelines and electric power lines can lie within a few feet of the surface, if you are unaware of their position, contacting these lines can be fatal. Some state laws actually require notification of utilities at least two working days before digging. Underground Service Alert is a free notification service for anyone who is planning an underground excavation project. Customers can call USA from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday, except for holidays. USA operates 150 vehicles outfitted with electronic mapping technology and a global positioning system (GPS) device to identify the location of underground utilities.

In addition to calling USA, other tips for a safe excavation include the following basic reminders:

  • On paved surfaces, mark the proposed excavation area with white chalk-based paint.
  • On unpaved surfaces, use flags or stakes to mark the area.
  • Call USA at least two working days prior to the start of excavation. Customers will receive a list of notified utilities that may have underground lines in the area. If you believe a utility may not have marked their lines, call USA and notify them.
  • Carefully hand excavate within 24 inches on either side of a utility-marked facility.
  • Be careful not to erase facility marks while working. If you cannot see the markings, call USA and request a remarking.
  • USA requests are active for 28 days. Notify USA if work continues beyond that time.
  • Immediately notify utilities about any type of contact or damage to its lines or pipes.            EC