April is Safe Digging Month
This month, recognized by the Senate and Florida’s governor, reminds diggers why calling 811 before all outdoor digging projects is important to your safety. Before installing a mailbox, fence, deck, garden or tree make sure to call Sunshine 811 to have underground lines marked. 811 is the free national number designated by the Federal Communications Commission. It notifies utility companies, who in turn send their professional locators to identify and mark the appropriate location of underground line with paint and flags in colors that identify the utility type. The following colors represent the seven various utilities: red – electric, orange – communications (telephone, cable tv), blue – potable water, green – sewer, yellow – gas, purple – reclaimed water, and white – site of intended excavation. To learn more about color designation and their corresponding utility go to: http://www.call811.com/faqs/default.aspx. Locate marks are good for 30 calendar days. Any work beyond that requires another call to 811. If the marks are destroyed before your project is done, stop digging and call 811.
Hitting an underground utility line while digging can cause injuries, utility service outages to an entire neighborhood and damage to the environment. The depth of utility lines varies, and there may be multiple utility lines in one common area. Even if you think you know where an underground line is, time tends to change things. Erosion or tree roots can shift those utility lines. Failure to call before digging results in one unintentional utility hit every eight minutes nationwide. You could also be financially affected with costly fines and high repair costs.
The Common Ground Alliance (CGA) Damage Information Reporting Tool (DIRT) provides industry stakeholders with a way to anonymously submit data into a comprehensive database for analysis of the factors that lead to events. An event is defined by the CGA DIRT User’s Guide as “the occurrence of downtime, damages, and near misses.” The number of events submitted to DIRT for 2011 totaled 207,779. However, according to CGA DIRT “when a call is made to the one call canter (811) prior to excavation, 99% of the time there will be no damage”.
Calling 811 in Florida is the law. At least two full business days before digging, do-it yourselfers and professional excavators must contact 811 by phone to start the process of getting underground utility lines marked. This is a free service. Be sure that all utilities have been marked before grabbing the shovel. If you don’t see locate marks, don’t assume there are no underground utility lines. Verify with the Sunshine 811 Positive Response system. Follow up on your one call ticket by contacting 811 again on the third day. Sunshine State One Call is a not for profit corporation which began with the 1993 adoption of the “Underground Facility Damage Prevention and Safety Act,” Chapter 556, Florida Statutes. Online you can visit: www.online811.com, or call (800) 852-8057. If you provide a valid e-mail when requesting your locate ticket, positive response updates will automatically be sent to you when all utilities have responded. For more information on Florida’s law, visit www.Sunshine811.com.