April is National Safe Digging Month! Why does that matter? Because every six minutes someone unknowingly severs a public utility line, according to the Common Ground Alliance.
While many people are aware of underground natural gas lines, buried utilities also include lines for electricity distribution, cable television, fiber optics, water mains and telecommunications, among others. Most line cuts occur when someone starts a project that involves digging, whether it’s a homeowner planting a tree or a backhoe at a construction site readying the ground to lay a foundation, without first locating utilities lines. The result? Every six minutes, an enterprise’s internet access goes dark or a community loses access to safe drinking water because of unintentional damage to underground utilities.
Every time a line is severed, it has a direct, negative economic and lifestyle impact on the affected households and businesses, particularly given that utility lines are essentially ubiquitous, with over 100 billion feet of underground utilities across the country. At Level 3 alone, we operate over 10 million miles of fiber optic cables circumnavigating the globe.
Make no mistake, severed utility lines can be very costly. Every minute a line is down means lost revenue to businesses, utility service outages to entire neighborhoods, repair costs and even potential fines for those who damage the lines.
Call 811 Before You Dig!
At Level 3, we work closely with the Common Ground Alliance and Call 811 to get the word out about safe digging. 811 is the federally designated call-before-you-dig number that puts homeowners and professionals in touch with the right utilities companies to avoid damaging utilities lines. You can call 811 from anywhere in the country, and the operator will help notify local utilities about your intended digging location. The companies will then send locators to your dig site to mark the approximate location of buried lines with flags or paint, so you can proceed to dig safely.
We’ve created the two downloadable images below (simply right-click on them) to help you easily identify the “warning flags” if a line is in danger of being severed. Feel free to take them with you; put them in your cubicle, or on your dashboard – and pass them along to co-workers.
A severed utility line impacts us all, so let’s commit to making the awareness gained during National Safe Digging Month something we practice year-round.