Know What’s Below Before You Hoe

April 03, 2019

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PORTLAND, Ore. — Spring weather may inspire us to don gloves, grab a shovel and tackle some serious outdoor projects. Pacific Power applauds your spirit, but also urges you to take one important safety step before hitting the dirt: dialing 8-1-1 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 when potentially dealing with underground power lines.”

A national survey recently found that 42 percent 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.

The national public opinion survey of homeowners conducted in March by the Common Ground Alliance (CGA), the national association dedicated to protecting underground utility lines, people who dig near them, and their communities, also revealed the most popular planned projects cited among surveyed homeowners who plan to dig include:

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

Pacific Power and its sister utility in the mountain states have 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. 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.

To learn more about electrical safety or to order free electrical safety materials, call Pacific Power’s public safety department at 800-375-7085 or visit pacificpower.net/safety.