Locating Underground Utilities Prior to Digging: Three Reasons Why

Once utility lines moved from overhead to underground, service reliability improved markedly. While moving underground helped to ensure continuity, it also ushered in additional layers of complexity and challenges. No longer do homeowners, landscapers, construction companies and the utility companies themselves have a line of sight on these critical lines, which means one unlucky nudge of a shovel could result in a severed line and interrupted service.

The only way to safely and smartly proceed with a project that involves digging is to locate all underground utilities in the area before breaking any ground. Here are the top reasons underscoring the importance of properly locating utilities before digging.

Having a trained expert locate utilities can prevent injuries

Standard operating procedure before any project that breaks ground is to call 811, the national “call-before-you-dig” phone number. From there, the service will trigger a request for utility companies to mark the location of underground lines. But what happens if someone lacks awareness about what’s buried beneath the ground? A person digging with a shovel, spade, or another tool with metal components could put themselves and others around them at risk of electrocution if they strike a high-voltage electric line.

Locating utilities can avoid outages and disruptions

Unknowingly cutting a line could cause a home, neighborhood, or even an entire section of the city to lose power.

While human safety is paramount, there is a significant risk of causing a service outage when digging without locating utilities. Unknowingly cutting a line could cause a home, neighborhood, or even an entire section of the city to lose power, water, or telephone functionality. But there are other disruptions beyond just service outages that can occur if digging takes place before locating utilities first. Striking a gas line can result in a building’s evacuation while hitting a water main can require a boil-water advisory.

Related: Utility Poles: Maintenance or Replacement

Finding utilities quickly is good customer service

If you take one look at Call811.com, you’ll see this headline in big, bold print: “Know what’s below. Call before you dig.” As mentioned, contacting the service is the first step for anyone who wants to start digging. State laws dictate how long utilities have to locate their underground lines for customers, but it’s a good practice to complete that process as soon as possible. If for no other reason, expediting this process can serve as a good customer service gesture. No utility wants to be the last company to locate its lines. That type of delay could cause anxious project owners to proceed without any markings, severing lines in the process. Projects can’t start until all underground utilities are located, so time is of the essence.

Related: Proactive Equipment Checks: A Lifeline for Your Business

Final thoughts on locating underground utilities

The various reasons why utilities must be located before digging are clear. Unfortunately, the process is not always as simple as it sounds. That’s why so many utilities, energy cooperatives, and utility contractors have turned to Utility Partners of America (UPA) for assistance.

The team at UPA has extensive experience and equipment to quickly and efficiently locate utilities. UPA’s staff works seamlessly to meet client demands. When a client’s team needs help, UPA staff can smoothly integrate and perform as the client’s own workforce. If you’re interested in learning how we can work with you to satisfy your customers’ utility location needs, contact us today.