Plan to call before you dig
Digging without locating underground utilities could leave neighborhoods in the dark, cause thousands of dollars in damages, or cause severe electrical shock or death. This is true regardless of how much area your project will cover or whether you consider the job to be large or small. To help stay safe, make use of the national underground utility locating service for free by calling 8-1-1 three business days before you intend to dig.
The 8-1-1 "Call Before You Dig" number will route you to your local utility locating service. Make sure to tell the operator where and when you plan to dig and what type of work you will be doing. From there, it takes a few business days for a professional to come mark your public utilities with flags or spray paint.
What the colors mean
There are different colors of paint and flags that mark the underground utilities, and each color is universal to what utility is buried.
- Red – Electric
- Orange – Communications (Telephone or Cable TV)
- Blue – Potable Water
- Green – Sewer or Drainage
- Yellow – Gas, Oil, or Petroleum
- Purple – Reclaimed Water
- White – Proposed or Intended Excavation
Call every time
Even if you previously had utilities located by calling 8-1-1, it is best to call before every digging project. Underground utilities can shift, and it is important to be certain of where they are before ever putting a shovel in the ground.
It is important to understand that 8-1-1 locators do not locate privately installed facilities. If you have any private utilities, you will need to hire a private utility locator. Examples of private utilities include underground sprinkler system, invisible fences, data communication systems, private water systems, or gas piping to a garage.
Once all your underground utilities have been located, it is time to start digging, but be sure to wear all of the proper protective gear before putting the shovel or spade into the earth.
Article and image of colored spades courtesy of SafeElectricity.org.