The Dangers of Not Locating Buried Utilities Before Digging

Utility locating is the important process of identifying utility assets like gas and sewer lines that are buried underground. This step protects your team and community from disasters like electrocution and gas line explosions should they strike a buried utility. Skipping this step can have life-threatening consequences.

The Risks of Damaged Utilities

In late 2015, a construction crew in Pennsylvania was replacing water lines when an electric line was struck by their track hoe. The resulting sparks caught a nearby gas pipe on fire, causing an inferno that blazed for hours before the gas was able to be shut off. Emergency crews, firefighters and a special Taskforce were deployed to the scene to help route traffic, evacuate residents and keep the fire from doing even more damage.

How did this happen? A utility locator had been to the site before the project began, but they didn’t mark the street crossing where, eventually, the electric line was struck. This oversight had catastrophic consequences and could have been avoided.

Similar stories abound showing us the dangers of damaging utilities. Ask anyone who has been in the business long enough and you’ll hear about them. Evacuation is dangerous work by nature, and the risk goes up when locating standards go down.

Call Before You Dig for Safer Excavation

Program this number in your phone: 811.

That’s the national call-before-you-dig hotline, and calling it is a vital step before any excavation project. Make the call a few days before you plan to start digging and be prepared to tell the operator the address of your project, including the nearest cross streets. They will also ask about your project in general and the exact area where you’ll be digging. Within a few days, utilities will respond to your request and locate and mark all buried lines clearly. Dig carefully around these marks, and if your project is too close to buried utilities, reconsider your plan.

Taking this small step can save lives, and so can using the right hydrovac equipment.

Our hydro excavation trucks result in safer digging with less risk to your team and community. The precision of the jets on our units means you only dig up what you need to, and debris is safely and immediately transferred into storage. You can see underground utilities and exactly what you’re excavating, giving a clarity never possible before. This keeps your whole team safer and reduces the risk of striking lines. When you call 811 and choose hydro excavation, you’re creating the safest possible digging experience.