April is National Safe Digging Month

Published 1:12 pm Monday, April 1, 2024

With the arrival of Spring, warmer temperatures offer ideal conditions to revitalize home landscaping or plant the year’s first personal herb garden.

Before grabbing that shovel, however, Atmos Energy reminds everyone, homeowners and professional excavators alike, to keep communities safe by contacting 811 before starting any excavation project.

Digging without knowing the approximate location of underground utilities can result in disruptions to critical services, serious injuries and costly repairs to underground utility lines.

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Every year in April, National Safe Digging Month is an opportunity to spread safety awareness to homeowners, contractors and any professional excavator.

811 is the national call-before-you-dig phone number and it is a free and easy service required by law, officials said.

By making a request online or over the phone by calling 811 a few days before digging, you are helping communities maintain essential utility services, promoting safety and reducing the likelihood of accidentally digging into buried utility lines.

In Mississippi, Gov. Tate Reeves declared April as Safe Digging Month with a proclamation that reads, in part, “excavators and homeowners can save time and money keeping our nation safe and connected by making a simple call to 811 in advance of any digging project.”

The Governor’s Office has issued a similar proclamation for Safe Digging Month each of the past several years.

“Whether you are a landscape architect or a ‘do-it-yourselfer,’ if your backyard beautification project requires heavy equipment or power tools, make sure all underground utility lines have been located and marked,” said  Todd Fuller, manager of Damage Prevention for Atmos Energy in Mississippi.  “National Safe Digging Month reminds us that calling 81l before any digging project is the safest way to avoid damaging your underground utility lines, which could lead to an inconvenient outage.”

Everyone who contacts 811 a few days before digging is connected to a local notification center that will take the caller’s information and communicate it to local utility companies.

Professional locators will then visit the dig site to mark the approximate location of underground utility lines with spray paint, flags or both.

Homeowners are further encouraged to take a few precautionary measures when planning any digging project this spring:

●      Plan ahead. If work is scheduled for an upcoming weekend, make a free 811 request on Monday or Tuesday providing ample time for the approximate location of lines to be marked.

●      Confirm that all lines have been marked.

●      Consider moving the location of your project if it is near utility line markings.

●      If a contractor has been hired, confirm that the contractor has contacted 811. Don’t allow work to begin if the lines are not marked.

●      Please visit 811beforeyoudig.com for complete information.

As part of National Safe Digging Month, Atmos Energy asks everyone to become a safety ambassador by taking the Atmos Energy Call 811 Pledge at atmosenergy.com/call811pledge.

In addition, the Atmos Energy Damage Prevention Ambassador Program empowers employees year-round to help eliminate pipeline damage by making stops at excavation sites to educate the public and promote safe digging practices.

In 29 percent of all stops, Damage Prevention Ambassadors found that excavators did not have a valid 811 ticket, the ticket had expired or their excavation plan included the use of mechanized equipment within the utility tolerance zone without first exposing the utilities.

If pipeline danger exists, the Ambassador is empowered to stop the work, and the excavator is asked to cease digging and call 811 so utilities can mark their lines as required under state law.

With an increasing number of public infrastructure projects and expanding economic development, pipeline damage resulting from excavation remains the most common cause of outside natural gas leaks. Atmos Energy has been and will continue to be a champion for damage prevention, and this is yet one more way that Atmos Energy puts its safety vision into practice.