Austin, Texas – April is National Safe Digging month. As a utility company that has underground utility lines, we want to make sure everyone knows how to dig safely to avoid injury and protect the community from an outage. Underground utility lines can be found in your front yard, side yard and backyard, under sidewalks and driveways, in streets, rights-of-way and even fields, creeks and other water crossings. You never want to guess where a line is located. The following tips will provide you some top safe digging techniques.
Call 811. If you are digging for a project, no matter if you are using a shovel, a backhoe or some other excavation machine, you must call 811 at least two full business days before you start. This allows the utility companies to mark their underground utility lines so that you don’t damage them. (You can also visit at www.Texas811.org or download the Texas811 app). It’s a free service. And it’s the law.
Flags and Paint. Utility companies use colored flags and paint to mark the underground utility lines. The markers identify the approximate location and show you where you should avoid digging.
If a flag is moved, do not try to replace it yourself. Call 811 to have it corrected.
- Do not rely on old paint markings or flags. You must call in for your own project.
- Whoever is digging needs to be the one to call.
- If your project lasts more than 14 working days, you must call 811 again to update and re-mark your project.
- If you hire a contractor, make sure they call 811 prior to digging.
- Tolerance Zone. The tolerance zone is the area on each side of the utility pipe. You are required to hand dig in this area to avoid any contact or damage to the line.
Tolerance Zone. The tolerance zone is the area on each side of the utility pipe. You are required to hand dig in this area to avoid any contact or damage to the line.
If you smell gas while digging or damage a natural gas line, leave the area immediately. Do not use any electrical equipment such as phones or vehicles. Call 911 and the Texas Gas Service Emergency Line at 800-959-5325 (staffed 24/7). Do not try to make any repairs yourself and do not try to cover the damage.
Here are some signs you may have hit a natural gas line or have a leak:
- Smelling natural gas
- Hearing a hissing noise
- Bubbling in standing water
- Dead area in an otherwise healthy grassy area