Call before digging can save money and even lives

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We occasionally experience interruptions of electric power and other utility services, often as a result of bad weather.

That’s something we have little control over.

But other types of widespread service interruptions often could be avoided with a simple phone call.

“When you dig – even for simply planting a tree or digging a hole for a mailbox – call at least 48 hours before you plan on doing the digging,” said Chris Camp with New Albany Light, Gas and Water. “It is a free service, it does not cost you a penny, but if you decide to dig without the utilities being marked you are taking a risk of injury, property damages, fines, and service disruptions. We don’t want any of these things to happen when all someone has got to do is make a simple phone call and they will know where everything and they can dig safely.”

The dangers of digging without calling and its consequences were emphasized this past week at an initial meeting of the Union County Damage Prevention Coordinating Council.

Jerry Kennemur, of Mississippi 811, showed videos and talked about procedures for dealing with various types of underground lines.

“The organization involves law enforcement, utility workers, fire departments and other first responders,” he said. Kennemur added that about 80 from Union County and surrounding counties attended this first meeting here.

While the meeting focused on mitigation and solutions, those involved want to be sure their message gets out to the public: call before you dig.

Camp said buried gas lines are particularly dangerous, so it is especially important to call the gas department before digging.

“New Albany Light, Gas, and Water installs pipeline markers to indicate that a buried natural gas pipeline is in the area,” he said. “These are generally situated along highways, county roads, creek crossings, and railroad crossings.” But Camp also cautioned that “These pipeline markers indicate only the presence of your pipeline; they are not to be used to determine the exact location of the pipeline. We will mark the gas line, but remember to carefully hand dig two feet on each side of the marks.”

If you do happen to hit a pipeline, Camp says you should turn off and abandon the equipment you are on, leave the area quickly and take others with you. “Call New Albany Light, Gas, and Water at 662-534-1041 or call 911. Do not let others go back around the site. Natural Gas can be dangerous not only to the person that hits it, but also for the crews there having to make the repairs, so it just makes it safer for everyone to call 811 before you decide to dig.”

While calling to make sure you won’t damage any service lines while digging makes good sense, many people don’t realize the law requires it.

State law says you must call 811 or take equivalent action for any sort of digging unless you are plowing less than 24 inches in depth for agricultural purposes; are “moving or otherwise displacing, by hand, earth, rock or other material or mass of material on or below the ground at a depth of less than 12 inches” on property you own; or are someone other than the property owner, who is moving or otherwise “displacing, by hand, earth, rock or other material or mass of material on or below the ground at a depth of less than 12 inches,” except when such excavation is in a clearly marked underground facility right-of-way.

Buried gas lines may be most dangerous, but there are plenty of other underground lines that can cause inconvenience if you cut them, and also leave you liable for financial damages under state law. Underground utility lines include buried cable, conduit pipes and related facilities for transportation and delivery of electricity, telecommunications (including fiber optics), water, sewage, gas, mixtures of gases, petroleum, petroleum products or hazardous, flammable, toxic or corrosive liquids.

If you do plan to dig, there are four ways to request a utilities location survey. You can call 811, register or login for E-Locate Request, use Fax-A-Locate or the Terminal Server Program.

Locate requests should be called in by the person or company that will be performing the actual excavation in order to be covered by the locate request number provided by Mississippi One-Call System, Inc. State law requires excavators to notify owners of underground facilities at least two and not more than ten working days (Saturday, Sunday and legal Holidays excluded) before digging. Marking your proposed excavation site with white paint or white flags prior to calling in your locate request will help confirm to the locator(s) the exact location you will be excavating.

The CSR will ask for information about the location and type of work to be done. The specific location information will be compared to service area information provided by member utilities. If a conflict occurs, the member utility will receive a notice of your intent to dig. The CSR will provide a reference number and a list of the member utilities that Mississippi One-Call will notify.

Marker Color Code Information

White– Proposed excavation

Pink – Temporary survey markings

Red – Electric power lines, cables, conduit and lighting cables.

Yellow – Gas, oil, steam, petroleum or gaseous materials

Orange – Communication, alarm or signal lines, cables or conduit

Blue – Potable water

Purple – Reclaimed water, irrigation and slurry lines

Green – Sewers and drain lines

Some other safety steps with a possible ruptured gas line:

• If you have called from the area of the odor, then lay the phone down, do not hang it up. It may be an ignitions source.

• Go to a safe distance away to make the call. Never call from the area where you smelled the odor.

• Do not turn any switches on or off; they may be an ignition source.

After evacuation, locate to a safe distance from affected structure.

Call the experts, they have the detection equipment and the experience to eliminate the problem.

“Before You Excavate Please Investigate”

Call us toll free:

Mississippi One-Call Center

Statewide: 811 or 1-800-227-6477

Out-of-State: 1-800-445-1988

In an emergency call 911 and (662) 534-1041 or 1-888-534-1041