Accurately locating underground utilities and other subsurface obstacles is critical in keeping people and essential services safe and secure. Location services are available for contractors and homeowners from utility service companies and private surveyors. Everyone seems to have skills at using whichever utility locator is required to get a good read. However, it is the actual nationwide campaign “to dial before you dig” that has amped up efforts to prevent damages and readily locate utilities before breaking ground. Find out when to dial 811 and what happens when professionals work to locate underground utilities.
Dial Before You Dig
Whether you’re a contractor or a homeowner, dialing 811 before you dig will produce similar results but vary from state to state. Be sure to check your local guidelines and regulations for a clear definition of what it means to dig carefully in your state.
Locating For Homeowners and Contractors
Before even kicking around a bit of surface dirt, do yourself a favor and call 811. You will be directed to make a service request for utility operators to mark any buried lines on your property when you call. Typically buried lines are found with a utility locator then marked with flags or spray paint, or a combination of both if there are different utilities to note and avoid.
Ticket time should take no longer than one to two weeks for a utility servicer to mark your property. However, if that time frame does not work for your project, it is best to plan far in advance to better suit your time frame. No matter how long your project takes, the same markers must be present and visible throughout the duration.
Suppose the project drags past your expiration date for whatever reason, considering everyone has experienced longer than usual completion times in recent months. In that case, you must dial 811 and create another ticket for a re-mark.
The markings are necessary for the entirety of the dig because you must use them as guides to avoid contact with any subsurface pipes, cables, or buried items that are better left undisturbed. The general rule is to avoid digging with two feet on all sides of any marks, regardless of the specific utility.
One of the reasons it is necessary to plan well in advance is because homeowners often find it necessary to move sites for their projects due to the overabundance of buried lines found by a utility locator on the property.
Once utilities are marked and located, the two-foot rule still stands. Unlike homeowners, however, contractors are likely required to go ahead with the dig despite the location of utilities.
State laws particularly prohibit mechanized equipment within that buffer zone, also referred to as the tolerance zone. To combat this problem, contractors must use vacuum excavation or hand digging near the marked utilities to expose them and potentially relocate or reroute depending on state laws. For more information about digging in your own yard or getting clearance to dig on a surveyed or commercial plot, dial 811 before you dig. If you are a utility company looking to revamp your tool selection, shop the choices of utility locators at Engineer Supply.