Know What's Below Before You Hoe

April 20, 2017

boy with tree

PORTLAND, Ore. — Every eight minutes 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 Steven Harkin, 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. If you hit a buried electric line, you could die or be seriously injured. It's that simple."

PacifiCorp has approximately 20,000 miles of underground cable in the West. There are nearly 20 million miles of underground utility lines in the United States. These buried facilities, including gas, water, sewer, cable TV, high-speed Internet, landline telephone, provide the services Americans depend on for their basic everyday needs. But if you don't know where they are buried before you dig, you are in danger.

The only way to know for sure where these underground facilities are is by using the Call Before You Dig phone number. 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 costs.

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.

Although the Call Before You Dig system has been active for many years, according to a recent national survey, 45 percent – nearly half of people who plan to dig this year – will not call 8-1-1 first.

To learn more about electrical safety or to order free electrical safety materials, visit pacificpower.net/safety.