Why Call 8-1-1 Before You Dig

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Why Call 8-1-1 Before You Dig

Wait! Stop! Before you stick that shovel in the ground, be sure you pick up the phone and call to have your utilities notified and marked. Not only is contacting utilities recommended, quite often it is also the law.

Digging into the soil – whether you’re a homeowner using a shovel or a construction worker manning the scoop on a large excavator – can unearth or even break any number of buried utilities from waterlines to sewer outlets to gas pipes and more. Damaging these lines can cause major neighborhood disruptions, make a mess of your garden and might even cause mortal damage to you or others.  For these reasons, utility notification and marking programs are easy to contact, free to use and fast to respond.

Digging into the soil

Here’s how they work. A few days before you plan to begin your digging project, it is your responsibility to contact your utility notification service. How each service works may vary from state-to-state, but by calling 8-1-1 anyone in any state will be connected to a local service provider.   Or, visit the call811.com website and peruse their state-by-state listings. There, you may have the option to fill out a state-specific web form to complete your requisite utility notifications.

Once you have submitted your application – by web or phone – it generally takes a minimum of 48 hours (non-holiday; non-weekend) for notifications and markings to be completed. Sometimes it takes longer. So be sure to double-check with your local authority just to be sure what their current turnaround time is.


A utility marking representative should be dispatched to your property shortly after you submit your request. There, they should complete the process of locating and marking the lines where your utilities run – blue for water, yellow for gas, green for sewer and so forth. Marks may be completed using spray paint and/or color-coded flags. Note: these are a few of the basic color-coding standards, but they don’t always hold true and may be used for alternate utilities. In some situations, utility lines may overlap, so lines may be mixed together. Too, how deeply utilities are buried varies and likely will not be indicated. And, on occasion, not every utility gets located and marked. So, always take care and know that you never really know what lurks beneath the soil!

If you expose a utility line or accidentally damage a line, always call 9-1-1 immediately for assistance from your local emergency services. Let the 9-1-1 operators know that you have contacted 8-1-1 and your property is marked and utilities were notified. When accidents happen and the utilities are already aware that digging is happening in a utility line area, they should be better prepared to help you and your neighborhood get back on track safely and quickly.