Call 811 before you dig, PG&E reminds customers

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First responders warn that excavation damage is a leading cause of pipeline or electric line damage.

SAN CARLOS, California—Customers must to call 811 before starting any excavation project, large or small. Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) issued this reminder, especially to mark April as National Safe Digging Month.

Excavation damage is among the leading causes of pipeline accidents in the United States. Last year, PG&E experienced over 1,000 incidents where a third party dug into its natural gas pipelines or electric power lines without calling 811.

“Utility lines buried underground can lie just a few feet from the surface due to soil erosion or grading,” said John Higgins, senior director of Gas Maintenance and Construction. “Whether planting a tree, installing a sprinkler system or building a fence, homeowners and professional excavators need to know where these lines lie underground before digging to prevent injuries, property damage and outages,”

Striking and damaging underground gas and electric lines create a serious safety concern for the excavator and the public. It can also impact gas and electric service to homes, schools and hospitals in the community. Repair costs billed to excavators can total several thousand dollars for damage to distribution lines and tens to hundreds of thousands for damage to larger transmission lines.

“These accidents can be prevented with an easy call to 811, a free service that provides important information on where utilities exist beneath excavation areas,” said Redwood City Fire Chief Jim Skinner.

Calling 811 puts customers in direct contact with Underground Service Alert (USA), which notifies local utility companies to mark the approximate location of their underground facilities in and around the excavation site, helping customers and contractors avoid them.

Anyone can call USA from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday, except for holidays. California law requires anyone doing excavation work to notify utilities at least two working days before digging.

Requests will be accepted as early as 14 days in advance of an excavation. Once a request is received, the customer or contractor will receive a list of notified utilities that may have underground lines in the area.

PG&E offers these tips for a safe excavation:

•   If you believe a utility has not marked its lines, call 811 again to notify USA.

•   To help utilities, excavators should mark the boundary of the proposed excavation area in white. On paved surfaces, use white chalk-based paint. On unpaved surfaces, use flags or stakes. Homeowners can use other white substances, such as sugar or flour to mark the proposed excavation area.

•   Carefully use hand tools to excavate within 24 inches on either side of a utility marking.

•   Be careful not to erase utility marks while working. If you cannot see the markings, call 811 and request a remarking.

•   811 requests are active for 28 days. Notify USA if work continues beyond that time.

•   Immediately notify utilities about any type of contact or damage to their wires or pipes.

•   If there is any type of damage to PG&E electric wires or gas pipelines, or if there is a possible gas leak, take these steps promptly:

o   Move to a safe location upwind where you can no longer smell natural gas

o   Call 911

o   Call PG&E at 1-800-743-5000

For more information about USA, visit www.call811.com. For tips on safe digging during the month of April, visit PG&E’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/pacificgasandelectric or PG&E’s Twitter feed at www.twitter.com/pge4me.

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