Underground Utility Location Statistics

underground-utility-mapping-locating-services-crew-on-site-scanningNo matter whether you live in a big city or in more rural area, if you live in the United States, chances are there is an underground utility line that is positioned closer to your home than you think. Now, when you think of underground utilities, you often think of gas lines and electric lines, but don’t forget that there are also water and sewer lines that are positioned underground as well. In addition, in some areas of the country, the lines that we use to communicate with our friends and family are located under the ground. If you add all of these utility lines together, you would come up with 20 million miles of utility lines. That is the equivalent of a 107 yard football field of utility lines for each man, woman, and child in the country.

This year alone over 38.6 million individuals will dig in the ground without marking utility lines, which can account for disruption in service in the phone, electric, or gas lines for your community. The statistics collected by the CGA or the Common Ground Alliance, reveals that on average a utility line is damaged every six seconds in the United States. This type of damage can require costly repairs or an even deadlier outcome. If your digging disrupts gas lines, the damages that you cause can result in explosions that can injury individuals in the vicinity. It can even result fatal injuries, so it is important to take precautions when you plan to dig, even if it is for small jobs like placing a mailbox or planting a tree.

If you are planning to dig, it is important to dial 811, no matter where you are located in the country. On April 13th of 2007, the number 811 was determined to be the national number to call to locate underground utility lines. This year alone, 25 percent of the damage that occurs to these lines will be the result of an individual not calling to confirm the locations of the utility lines before they begin digging. 15 percent of the damage will be caused by someone believing that the digging that they are doing will not be deep enough to cause any damage. To prevent these mistakes and potential damage, make sure to make the call to 811 or hire hire a local company that offers underground utility locating services.

When you are planning on digging, make sure to follow these six steps:
1. Make a plan and prepare – Put some thought into where you want to dig, and use white paint to mark your potential digging locations.
2. Contact 811 – They are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so don’t be afraid to call outside of business hours, as the representatives are all trained to assist you, no matter what state you live in.
3. Wait – You will need to wait for two full business days from the point that you make the call to 811 to assure that the local offices have the time to come and assess the area to see if there are any potential dangers in the area that you are planning to dig in.
4. Verify – Confirm that you have received a positive response that you are able to dig in the preliminary area that you specified before you begin digging.
5. Protect the markings that were left to inform you where the utility lines are. Make sure that flags are left in place and paint marks are not removed. Sweep away any dirt that may be covering the markings and know what each one means.
6. After all of those steps are complete, you can safely begin digging. If you follow these steps, you will have less than a one percent chance of damaging a utility line when digging.

The markings that are left behind to identify any utility lines in the area are color coded to provide a uniform method of informing individuals what utility lines are located in each spot. Here is a breakdown of what each color represents:
• White – This color is used by the individual planning on digging. It is used to make the intended points of excavation and basically serves as a visual proposal based on your intent.
• Pink – These are temporary survey markings that are placed on the ground to help locate the utility wires that may be present in the area.
• Red – This color represents a location where any electrical wires may be located. This includes electrical power lines, conduits, cables, and lighting cables.
• Yellow – This is a dangerous location to dig, as this color represents gas, oil, petroleum, or steam lines that are present underground.
• Orange – This color informs you that a means of communication is located here. This could mean alarms, signal lines, cables, or conduits.
• Blue – Blue is a representation of potable water, which is most likely going to be your water supply if you are planning to dig close to your home.
• Purple – This color also represents water, but it is reclaimed water sources that may be used for irrigation or slurry lines.
• Green – The last color is the only one that has not been covered yet. Green is the sewage and waste water line, so you definitely want to steer clear of this area, as a broken sewage pipe could result in an unattractive odor across the entire neighborhood.

As you can see from the statistics sited here, damage to underground utility lines is a real problem in this country. To stop this unnecessary damage, all we need to do is take the steps to find where the utility lines are located. 811 is a number that was created to provide you with a free survey of the area you plan to dig in and inform you whether it is safe or not, so let’s all make use of this resource to help prevent more damage from occurring.

1. http://call811.com/
2. http://www.spectraenergy.com/Safety/Call-Before-You-Dig/US-Information/Facts-Call-Before-You-Dig-US/
3. http://www.thecablevine.com/forum/forum.php
4. http://www.utilitylocatinghq.com/dig-safely-from-utility-locating-hq/
5. http://www.usicllc.com/
6. http://www.tenn811.com/
7. http://www.sunshine811.com/
8. http://www.ecmag.com/section/safety/get-dirt-safe-digging