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(WHTM) — With a recent incident involving a construction crew hitting a gas line with a backhoe in Swatara Township, is there a way to know that where you are digging is safe? The answer is yes.

If you are starting anything that involves digging around your residence, you should call 811. 811 is the national call-before-you-dig phone number.

The number can be dialed in any state around the country. When you dial, the call gets automatically routed to a local 811 center. Some states, including Pennsylvania, allow residents or contractors to submit an online request.

Some work that involves a call to 811 includes anything from planting a garden to installing a fence or mailbox to larger projects that require professional contractors. When you call the number, a representative will ask simple questions about the location and details of the project.

After you call, or submit the request online, you will receive a ticket number and instructions for how much time utilities have to respond to your request. The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission says that by law, you need to submit your request a minimum of three days before you begin the project. The website states that is very important to not begin work prior to the lawful start date. If you do, it can result in the forfeiture of the excavator’s rights and protection provided under the PA One Call Law, which was signed into law in 2017.

Then, individual facility owners will review your request to determine if you have any underground facility lines near the work site. Pennsylvania811 states that within a day or two, each company with underground lines will send a professional locater to your worksite to mark the locations of buried utilities with color-coded flags, paint, or chalk.

On the morning of the excavation, you will receive an email that details what each utility company did marking the location of their underground lines if you have provided an email address when you contacted 811. According to Pennsylvania811,

  • MARKED means you should see colored paint, flags, or chalk near the excavation site
  • CLEAR means the utility company does not have underground lines near the excavation site

The Pennsylvania 811 website says to be aware that utility companies may not mark customer-owned lines, such as private lines, pool connections, and barbecue areas. You can see the full list of private underground locating service companies here.

After this, work can begin. However, Pennsylvania811 says that all work should avoid damage or minimize interference with underground lines in the proposed area. Pennsylvania811 states that you are responsible for the marks once the locater has left. If you think the markings have been taken away, you should contact 811 for them to be remarked.

More information on Pennsylvania811, and to submit an online digging request, can be found here.

Administrative penalties are implemented if 811 is not contacted. If the utility line is compromised and the damage is less than $10,000, the maximum fine is $1,000. If the damage is more than $10,000, the maximum fine is $5,000. If personal injury or death occurs, the fine imposed can be up to $10,000.

So, before you dig anything, call 811!