One of the most common questions new homeowners ask is “What is 811?” Put simply, 811 is an abbreviated, toll-free number created to prevent damage to critical state and local infrastructure. Calling 811 puts you in contact with the utility companies who service your community, so they can mark underground pipes and cables around your home. This not only helps you avoid service interruptions. It protects you from liability. Homeowners are responsible for damage caused to utility lines during their digging projects.
Importance of 811
During the 1960s, a series of digging accidents led to fires, power outages, and gas leaks along the West Coast. In response, utilities began setting up toll-free numbers homeowners could call before digging up their property. These resources were so successful that by the 1990s, every state had a dig law requiring residents to contact their utilities before an excavation project.
811 was created to simplify communications between homeowners and utilities. Rather than calling every provider in the area, homeowners could now connect with all of them through a single number. Despite this, thousands of underground utilities are damaged each year. The Common Ground Alliance recorded over 300,000 accidents in 2020 alone, around a third of which could have been avoided if 811 had been called before starting work.
How It Works
Working with 811 isn’t complicated. Follow these three steps to protect yourself and the underground utilities on your property:
- Mark Your Dig Site. Before you call 811, mark the area you plan to dig with flags, chalk, or white paint. That way, when utility workers arrive, they’ll know exactly where to begin their evaluation.
- Call 811. Submit your project request at least 2-3 working days before you intend to start digging.
- Wait for a Positive Response. If the utility company hasn’t responded to your request after 2-3 days, do not assume it’s safe to proceed. You need an explicit go-ahead from each company that services your home. If you haven’t heard back, call again and check on the status of your request.
When the utility workers inspect your site, they will mark out your existing utility lines with paint, chalk, stakes, or flags ‒ each one a different color, representing a different utility.
- Red. Power lines
- Yellow. Natural gas
- Blue. Water
- Green. Sewer
- Purple. Reclaimed water and irrigation
- Orange. Communications and cable TV
Keep in mind that not every pipe and cable on your property is a public utility. Utility lines end at the meter or point of sale. Anything past that is considered a private line and you do not need to call 811 before working on them. If you’re uncertain where the private lines are in your home, hire a private contractor to mark them out for you.
Once utility workers have finished marking the lines around your home, it’s time to start digging. However, always be sure to respect the tolerance zone ‒ 24 inches outside the edge of the utility. Though you’re allowed to excavate in the tolerance zone, it has to be done carefully, with proper supervision to avoid causing damage.
Saving Money with Agway
Agway partners with utilities to power your home. But we don’t just supply energy. We protect your house and finances as well. Our EnergyGuardTM program covers your heating, cooling, and electrical systems from damage caused by wear and tear. Repairs are a fact of life for every homeowner. No matter how well you take care of your furnace, air conditioner, or wiring, they will break down eventually. It’s an inescapable problem, but thanks to EnergyGuardTM, it’s one Agway customers don’t have to manage on their own.
Instead of paying hundreds of dollars out-of-pocket to fix their furnace, air conditioner, or wiring, Agway customers call us instead. We send out a repairman and pay for all covered parts. We don’t charge deductibles or service fees. Everything is covered by your monthly rate. Best of all, you’re enrolled once your application has been accepted, so contact us today to sign up and learn more!