Reminder: Call before you dig

WLFI File Photo
WLFI File Photo

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) – As the weather warms with Spring’s arrival, April is known as the busiest time of year for landscaping and construction projects. However, a recent survey found 51 percent of homeowners will not call before digging and that sometimes ends with costly repairs.

April marks Safe Digging Month for Indiana, which serves as a reminder to Hoosiers to always call 811 before any digging project. Indiana 811 officials said to call at least two-full working days before beginning a project.

A recent national survey, conducted by International Communications Research, found that 51 percent American homeowners who plan to dig won’t call 811 before starting. But failure to call puts them and their communities at risk, said officials with Indiana 811.

They said digging without knowing the approximate location of all underground utilities greatly increases the risk that one of those lines will be hit, which can cause serious injuries, service disruptions and costly repairs.

Based on data collected by the Common Ground Alliance, a national organization to protect underground lines and the safety of utility workers, an underground utility line is damaged every six minutes nationwide because someone decided to dig without calling first. They also added there are more than 100 billion feet of underground utilities in the United States.

Chuck Muller, Director of Member and Public Relations for Indiana 811, said in a news release that many do-it-yourself people will not call for what they believe are “simple projects.”

“According to the survey results, homeowners who plan to dig this year know the paint marks and flags on the ground are used to identify underground utilities, but among these ‘DIYers,’ more than half will not call 811, increasing the chances for injuries and utility service outages in their neighborhoods,” Muller said. “With spring upon us, tens of millions of homeowners will reach for their shovels and begin digging for landscape and other home improvement projects. It is critical for them to pick up the phone and make a free call to 811 a few days before those projects begin.”

According to the recent survey, homeowners will not call 811 for the following DIY projects:

  • 84 percent – Planting shrubs
  • 63 percent – Planting a tree
  • 61 percent – Installing a pole for a basketball goal
  • 50 percent – Building a deck
  • 46 percent – Installing a fence
  • 45 percent – Digging a patio

The survey also identified top reasons why people do not plan to call 811 before digging:

  • 56 percent – Thought they knew where utilities were buried on their property
  • 47 percent – Did not think they would dig deep enough to come in contact with utility lines

Muller said homeowners must remember that sometimes utilities can be only a few inches below the surface, due to erosion and other topography changes.

Indiana 811 said follow these steps when planning a digging project this spring:

  • Always call Indiana 811, two work days prior to digging regardless of the depth
  • Plan ahead and provide ample time for the approximate location of lines to be marked
  • Confirm that all lines have been marked
  • Learn what the various colors of paint and flags represent
  • Consider moving the project location, if it is near utility line markings
  • If a contractor has been hired, don’t allow work to begin if the lines are not marked. Make sure to call.

About the survey (Information Provided by Indiana 811):
International Communications Research (ICR) conducted a national omnibus phone study between Feb. 26 and March 2, 2014, on behalf of CGA. A total of 592 American homeowners ages 18+ were asked for their opinions on home and property improvement project topics. The survey had a margin of error that varied from +-2.2 percent to +-5.7 percent, depending on the particular survey question. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language, off topic, or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others and keep the conversation on topic and civil. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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