Dig the date: Remember 811 before digging | PostIndependent.com

Dig the date: Remember 811 before digging

Heather McGregor
Post Independent Editor
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Kelley Cox Post Independent

Today is Aug. 11, or 8/11, the perfect date for Call 811 Day.

Call 811 Day is aimed at protecting underground utility lines from unintentional damage caused by digging that strikes or severs a buried line.

The Call 811 slogan, “Know what’s below. Call before you dig,” is the simple message of a national effort to ask excavators, contractors and homeowners planning to dig more than a foot into the ground to call first.

A call to the national 811 hotline is free, as is the visit to the property by a professional utility line locator, who will spray paint the routes of buried electrical, natural gas, telephone, cable TV, fiber optic, water and sewer lines.

What’s not free is not calling 811.

Digging without calling first can lead to penalties of $5,000 to $75,000, damage claims from utility companies, the potential for a widespread service outage and, in the worst case scenario, an explosion, fire or flood resulting from a broken line.

Locally, a group of utilities, excavation companies, road builders and location services joined together in 2009 to form the Pitkin-Eagle-Garfield Damage Prevention Council. Once the council secured its nonprofit status, it launched a “Call before you dig” public awareness campaign.

The centerpiece is a sleek metallic gray Dodge Viper convertible sports car, with a giant 811 logo on the pop-up hood and “Call 811” vanity license plates.

Purchased second-hand for $29,000 and financed by Alpine Bank, the Viper is strictly used as a show car, said Michael Whiddon, chairman of the local council and an accountant for Holy Cross Energy.

He’s driven it in parades, displayed it in car shows and parked it at trade shows and other events in the three counties. The intent is to raise awareness for the 811 concept and make “call before you dig” a commonplace habit.

“It’s really a safety issue. You can’t always trust that you know what is underlying your backyard,” Whiddon said.

His goal is to increase the number of calls to the national 811 hotline from Garfield, Eagle and Pitkin counties, and cut down on unintentional damages to utility lines.

Residents who are digging to place fence posts, flag poles, basketball hoops, sprinkler systems or planting trees, doing foundation work or any other deep digging should plan ahead and call 811. It generally takes two or three days for the locator to be scheduled and come to the property.

Locators use a nationally-established color code for different types of utility lines, and they will mark the route of buried lines across the work area. The service is free.

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