Courtesy of Guest Blogger, Paul Canevari, Regional Affairs Director, PPL Corporation
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For contractors, farmers and homeowners, April’s thawed soil is a motivator like none other to start on construction, planting and outdoor improvement projects.
With this month also marking National Safe Digging Month, it’s a good reminder for everyone to consider the consequences of digging without knowing what’s below the surface. Stay safe and call PA One Call at 811 at least three business days before beginning any digging project.
“Last year, about a third of the damage to our underground lines occurred as a result of someone neglecting to call PA One Call at 811,” said Mark Santayana, who leads PPL Electric Utilities’ damage prevention group. “If you don’t call, what hangs in the balance is serious injury or death and people losing power unnecessarily.”
Calling at least three business days before you dig is not only state law but an easy, safe way to determine the location of underground utilities that include gas, water and sewer lines or electric, phone and Internet cables.
Pennsylvania’s 811 communications center is staffed around the clock, seven days a week.
“When you call, you’ll be advised to use white spray paint to identify the dig location,” Santayana said. “That helps utilities investigate if there’s underground equipment in that area.”
If there’s an underground facility in the area, it will be noted by a specific color depending on the kind of underground equipment. Red paint is used by electric utilities to identify underground facilities such as electric cable.
“As a member utility of PA One Call, it’s our job to investigate a dig location and report back to PA One within two business days,” Santayana said. “PA One Call then notifies the excavator by email, phone or fax about whether it’s safe to dig in the requested area.”
Last year, the digging damage rate in PPL Electric Utilities’ service area was one in 6,000 locations, an improvement over 2013 when the rate was one in 5,000. The national average is one in 3,000.
“The first line of defense for all excavations is to know where all the underground utility lines are located before you dig,” Santayana said.
According to Common Ground Alliance, an organization that promotes the 811 phone number and safe digging practices in North America, an underground utility line is unintentionally damaged by digging once every three minutes nationwide, and one-third of those incidents are caused when no call is made to 811.
“I encourage residents and contractors to ‘Make the 811 Promise’ and always call 811 before you dig,” Santayana said. “We want everyone to be safe and to make calling 811 second nature, like buckling your seat belt.
“Don’t assume that you know what’s below the ground,” he added. “By promising to always call 811 before digging, you’re making a commitment to protect yourself, your family and your community.”
For more information about 811, visit www.paonecall.org, www.call811.com or www.the811promise.com.