Many of us were passionate about playing around in the sandbox when we were young, building castles and pretend driving dump trucks. Many of us seem to have taken this passion for excavation and creation into adulthood.
Men and women often decide to take matters into their own hands when digging around the yard. Sometimes, these minor excavations can go horribly wrong and damage infrastructure. The same thing can happen on a larger scale in commercial projects but with severe outcomes and the risk of loss of life.
The Common Ground Alliance states the cost of residential ground strikes to infrastructure is north of $30 billion annually in the United States.
If you plan on digging around in your yard, call 811 first. Before you decide to install that new irrigation system, drill on your property for water, or build as much as a birdbath, call 811.
August 11 is officially National 811 Day in observance of this service’s importance to the community.
In 2002, Congress passed the Pipeline Safety Improvement Act. The Federal government was tasked with developing a 3-digit free access number unifying the One-Call numbers people can reach out to before picking up tools.
When introducing the Act, there were already 71 One-Call centers in operation across the countries. Each had a 10-digit phone number creating communication chaos before starting a project.
Many people found themselves facing the decision of not knowing to call and the choice of ignoring the Act. So, the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) designated the project with 811 as its phone number.
The FCC chose 811 from three shortlisted numbers (411 & 611 were the other options). Different variations, like 211, 311, 511, and 711, were earmarked for other purposes. The FCC officially announced the allocation of 811 to the project on March 10, 2005.
The FCC included terms that the project must implement the number within two years of the date to receive a record in the Federal Register.
When calling 811 in your area, you’re connected to a One Call Center operating out of the District of Columbia, Virginia, or Maryland. The service is free, and it’s a vital component in the planning process of any home project when excavation is involved.
Member utility companies mark the locations of underground lines using high-visibility safety paint or flags. Many people don’t realize that while 811 is a service, it’s actually a requirement to call the number before conducting any digging in your backyard.
The activities involved in 811 include minor jobs like general digging, gardening, and landscaping. It also includes major excavation, construction, or demotion projects. If your site uses machinery, you’ll need to dial Miss Utility (811) before breaking ground.
Call 811 at least 48 hours beforehand. It’s important to note the number is only available on weekdays. You can start digging after 811 marks the lines as “no conflict.”
Get Assistance with Your Project Planning
When you dial 811, you’ll speak with a representative who schedules a personal visit to your location to mark the underground utility lines. They use stakes, flags, or paint to mark the areas to avoid where infrastructure lies buried beneath.
The colors are coded to indicate different types of infrastructure around the project area.
- Red – Electrical infrastructure like power lines and cables.
- Orange – Communications (signal lines, internet, alarms, TV cables).
- Yellow – steam, gas, or oil.
- Blue – Slurry, water irrigation, and potable water lines.
- Green – Sewers and drains.
- Purple – Non-potable water.
- Pink – Survey markings.
- White – The Excavation area.
After receiving your confirmation email from the 811 team, you can start your project. Don’t start the project before receiving confirmation, or you might be liable to a fine for violating the Act. If you have any queries, speak to a professional service in your area that understands 811 and how to navigate the system.
811 might seem like a curse to many homeowners that just want to stay away from the government interfering in their business. However, the other side of the argument is that 811 could end up saving billions of dollars in infrastructure losses every year.
It remains to be seen if the 811 projects will last for the long term and the level of public adoption and awareness it will create in coming years.
Additional Reading: https://www.phmsa.dot.gov/safety-awareness/811-day
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