August 11 (8/11) Is National Safe-Digging Day: Always Call 811 Before Digging

Every Three Minutes in the United States, an Underground Utility Line is Damaged During a Digging Project

Aug 09, 2013, 15:00 ET from Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E)

SAN FRANCISCO, Aug. 9, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- This August 11, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) reminds residential and business customers to call 811 to have underground utility lines marked prior to any digging project. Every three minutes in the United States, an underground utility line is damaged during a digging project. Accidental dig-ins can happen anywhere a buried utility line is laid – from a residential backyard to a major construction site.

Striking a utility line can lead to injury, repair costs, fines and inconvenient service outages. Every digging project, no matter how large or small, warrants a call to 811. Some examples include installing a mailbox, building a deck, planting a tree and laying a patio.

"We are taking steps every day to become the safest, most reliable gas company in the United States, but in order to prevent third parties from striking an underground gas or electric line, we need the cooperation of contractors and customers alike," said Nick Stavropoulos, PG&E's Executive Vice President for Gas Operations. "Last year, PG&E crews were called out to nearly 1,800 third party dig-ins, located anywhere from construction sites to suburban backyards. The majority could have been prevented with a call to 811."

So far this year, there have been more than 1,100 third party dig-ins in PG&E's service territory of Northern and Central California. PG&E needs the public's help to slow, and ultimately stop, this number from growing.

"According to national data compiled by Common Ground Alliance, when you call 811 before you dig, 99 percent of the time no damages occur," said Ryan White, Board Liaison, USA North 811. "That means that if every Californian were to begin calling 811 prior to digging, we could virtually eliminate utility damages overnight."

A call to 811 connects homeowners and excavating contractors to Underground Service Alert (USA). This free service notifies utility companies about any type of excavation project.  Utilities then dispatch professional locators to the requested digging site to mark the approximate locations of underground lines with flags, chalk-based spray paint or both. Over the last three years, California has had a 31 percent increase in 811 requests submitted to USA North 811 prior to excavation work.

PG&E offers these tips for a safe excavation:

  • Call 811 at least two working days before and up to 14 calendar days in advance of an excavation or digging project.
  • Customers will receive a list of notified utilities that may have underground lines in the area. If you believe a utility may not have marked its lines, call 811 again to notify USA.
  • On paved surfaces, mark the proposed excavation area with white chalk-based paint. Homeowners can also use other white substances such as sugar or flour.
  • On unpaved surfaces use flags or stakes to mark the proposed excavation area.
  • Carefully use hand tools to excavate within 24 inches on either side of a utility-marked facility. Digging even a few inches deep can pose some risks of striking a utility line.
  • Be careful not to erase facility marks while working. If you cannot see the markings, call 811 and request a remarking.
  • 811 requests are active for 28 days. Notify USA if work continues beyond that time.
  • Immediately notify utilities about any type of contact or damage to wires or pipes.
  • If there is any damage to PG&E electric wires or gas pipelines, or if you suspect a possible gas leak, take these steps:
    • Move to a safe location
    • Call 911
    • Call PG&E at 1-800-743-5000

For more information about 811 and safe digging practices, visit

Pacific Gas and Electric Company, a subsidiary of PG&E Corporation (NYSE: PCG), is one of the largest combined natural gas and electric utilities in the United States. Based in San Francisco, with 20,000 employees, the company delivers some of the nation's cleanest energy to 15 million people in Northern and Central California. For more information, visit and

Attention TV stations: Broadcast-quality b-roll is available for download NOTE: B-roll video shows PG&E employee marking underground utility lines

SOURCE Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E)