Know what’s below before you hoe

April 06, 2021

PORTLAND, Ore. — Every six seconds in America someone risks their life by striking an underground utility line. Pacific Power urges customers to protect themselves and their families and change this alarming statistic with one simple act: dialing 8-1-1 two days before doing any digging.

“Installing a mailbox or post for a deck or planting a tree are among the many commonplace projects that should trigger a call to 8-1-1,” said Joe Cissna, Pacific Power’s director of safety and training, referring to the national toll-free Call Before You Dig phone number. “Those may seem like simple, harmless maintenance projects, but the hazards are very real. Hitting a buried electric line could even be fatal. It’s that simple.”

A national survey recently found that 45%of residents planning a digging project fail to call 8-1-1. That means thousands will put themselves and their communities at risk by not calling 8-1-1 a few days beforehand to learn the approximate location of underground utilities.

According to a national survey of homeowners conducted in March by Common Ground Alliance (CGA), an association dedicated to promoting public safety related to excavation issues, the most popular planned projects by homeowners who plan to dig include:

  • Planting a tree or shrub (47%)
  • Building a patio or deck (24%)
  • Building a fence (21%)
  • Installing a mailbox (8%)

Pacific Power and its sister utility in the mountain states have approximately 20,000 miles of underground cable in the West. In the United States nearly 20 million miles of underground utility lines exist, including gas, water, sewer, cable TV, high-speed Internet, and landline telephone lines. But if you don’t know where they are buried before you dig, you are in danger. Even if you are lucky enough to not be harmed, you could be responsible for causing a service outage in your neighborhood—and potentially be responsible for the substantial repair cost

If you are planning a job that requires digging, even if hiring a professional, a call to 8-1-1 is required before work begins. The 8-1-1 service is free and couldn’t be easier. It’s a Federal Communications Commission-designated national one-call number that connects a caller from anywhere in the country to the appropriate local one-call center. The one-call center then alerts local underground facility owners so they can mark the approximate location of their lines with paint or flags.

To learn more about electrical safety or to order free electrical safety materials, visit