Power outages are an inconvenience, but some are preventable. Recently, residents of an east central Illinois town saw their electricity go out, all because a work crew digging in the area mistakenly hit an underground power line.
As gardening and home improvement projects peak, now is a good time to remember how to stay safe around electricity, especially when digging near underground utility lines.
Knowing where it is safe to dig before starting projects, like putting in a fence, planting a tree or building a deck, can save you from the hazards that may lie below the surface, including inadvertent contact with an underground power line that could cause serious injury.
Every six minutes, an underground utility line — including gas, electric, water and communications lines — is damaged because of digging without calling 811 first. With an estimated 38.6 million people nationwide expected to dig this year, it is very important to call 811 before starting any digging project.
Here are some steps to follow to help keep you safe:
• Call 811 a few days before you plan to start digging, whether it’s for a construction or gardening project.
• Operators will refer you to a local utility company, who will mark the approximate location of a line(s) with flags or paint. Wait for your lines to be marked before starting your digging project.
• Make sure to dig around the marked lines, not on them.
• Remember that some utility lines are buried at shallow depths.
• Erosion and roots may shift the location of utility lines, so it is important to call 811 before every digging project.