The calendar has turned to April, ushering in ‘National Safe Digging Month.’
The event occurs each April and urges everyone to call 811 before beginning a digging project to avoid any damages, injuries or fatalities that could result from striking a utility line.
According to the Mississippi Public Service Commission, excavation damage is the leading cause of natural gas distribution pipeline incidents, and a leading cause of other pipeline incidents, nationwide. A critical step in preventing excavation damage is for the excavator to notify pipeline operators of intent to excavate at a specific location.
This is normally done by the excavator calling a one-call center, such as Mississippi 811. The 811 agent then issues a locate ticket to alert pipeline operators and other underground utility operators with facilities located near the planned excavation activity. The pipeline operators can then locate and mark the location of their pipelines and otherwise communicate with the excavator as necessary to prevent damage to the pipelines.
The PSC explained in a news release that installing a mailbox, building a fence and planting a tree or garden are all examples of digging projects that should begin only after underground utility lines are marked by a professional locator. The depth of utility lines can vary for a number of reasons, such as erosion, previous digging projects and uneven surfaces. Utility lines need to be properly marked because even when digging only a few inches, the risk of striking an underground utility line still exists. Striking a single line can cause injury or death, significant repair costs, fines and inconvenient outages, which is why every digging project, no matter how large or small, warrants a call to 811.
“In the last year, our agency’s Pipeline Safety Division reported the lowest number of natural gas pipeline damage occurrences per thousand locates, 3.83, in more than 10 years,” Central District PSC Commissioner Brent Bailey said. “In addition, the call volume at Mississippi 811 is 11% higher. These numbers indicate that Mississippians, statewide, are taking the time to call 811 before starting their digging projects. However, we must continue to improve in our excavation and locating practices.”
Commissioner Bailey commended Mississippians for calling 811 before performing digging activity in 2020. Mississippi 811 reported a total of 444,416 calls received in 2020 resulting in almost 2.2 million utility locates, compared to 400,426 calls received in 2019 and 2 million utility locates.
Call 8-1-1 before you plan to do any digging or excavation work on your property in Mississippi or visit https://www.ms811.org/. For any other consumer matters, please contact the Mississippi Public Service Commission Central District Office at 1-800-356-6430.