SAN FRANCISCO, Calif – Spring break, blooming flowers and warming temperatures are all hallmarks of spring time in Northern and Central California. So is April’s National Safe Digging Month – a public safety initiative supported by Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) and more than 1,000 other utilities — that raises awareness about the importance of having underground utility lines marked in advance of any digging project. It’s a nation-wide effort to help keep people safe while doing projects big and small.
According to the Common Ground Alliance’s damage information reporting tool, an underground utility line is damaged every nine minutes in the United States. With spring typically regarded as the ideal time to begin home improvement projects and new construction, PG&E is urging customers to help stop dig-ins by placing a toll-free call to 811 or an online request to have gas and electric lines marked free of charge three working days before the project begins.
“Dig-ins are one of the most serious threats to public safety in our industry. Whether you are digging with a shovel or heavy machinery, a call to 811 can help keep you, your family and neighbors safe as well as help avoid costly repair that may result from striking an underground gas or electric line,” said PG&E Gas Operations Senior Vice President Jesus Soto.
• In 2017, there were nearly 1,800 third-party dig-ins on PG&E’s underground infrastructure across Northern and Central California.
• Of the nearly 1,800 dig-ins, nearly half resulted from not using 811 to have gas and electric lines marked in advance.
• Of the third-party (customers or construction crews) dig-ins to PG&E’s lines in 2017, homeowners accounted for nearly 25 percent.
• Nine out of 10 residential dig-ins had not called 811 in advance.
811 is a designated toll-free number for homeowners and professional excavators and is serviced by regional offices. Operators answering calls and emails will dispatch all necessary utilities to properly mark underground utility lines with paint or flags. Underground Service Alert of Northern/Central California and Nevada (USA North), recently announced that it will now be staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and will provide Spanish and other translation services.
“I commend USA North for demonstrating their commitment to safety by extending service hours. Construction work happens 24 hours a day and now crews in Northern California and Nevada will have the ability to file a ticket as soon as the need arises regardless of the time of day,” Soto added.
PG&E Safe Digging Tips:
Mark project area in white: Identify the digging location by drawing a box around the area using white paint, white stakes, white flags, white chalk or even white baking flour.
• Call 811 or go online for a USA ticket three working days before digging: Be prepared to provide the address and general location of the project, project start date and type of digging activity. PG&E and other utilities will identify underground facilities in the area for free.
• Dig safely: Use hand tools when digging within 24 inches of the outside edge of underground utility lines. Leave utility flags, stakes or paint marks in place until the project is finished. Backfill and compact the soil.
• Mind the lines: If the utility line is visible, dig in parallel with the utility line and use all precautions when removing the soil from around the utility line.
• Be aware of signs of a natural gas leak: Smell for a “rotten egg” odor, listen for hissing, whistling or roaring sounds and look for dirt spraying into the air, bubbling in a pond or creek and dead/dying vegetation in an otherwise moist area.
PG&E urges customers to call 911 and PG&E at 1-800-743-5000 if there’s a suspected gas leak. If an accidental dent, scrape or other damage is made to a gas pipeline, those nearby must leave immediately and alert others to avoid the area. Only when a safe distance away, should anything that might create a spark such as cell phones, matches, garage door openers, vehicles, or yard equipment be used.