Do-it-yourself homeowners or contract professionals are reminded that before starting landscaping or home improvement projects, it is essential to stay safe when digging.

The U.S. has more than 100 billion feet of underground utilities. This equates to more than one football field’s length of buried utilities for every man, woman and child in the country, according to the Common Ground Alliance, an organization dedicated to protecting the safety of people who dig near underground utility lines, a news release said.

Every six minutes in the U.S., an underground utility line is damaged because someone did not call 811, the national “Call Before You Dig” phone number, or connect online at www.call811.com, the release said.

Each year, Aug. 11 is a reminder to dig safely and lawfully. It’s important to dial 811 or connect online to have the approximate location of underground utilities and pipelines marked, whether you’re installing a fence, deck or swimming pool; planting a tree; or beginning any excavation project at home or on your property.

Protect yourself and those around you from injury by contacting 811, the release said. Not only is it the law in most states, but knowing where pipelines and underground utility lines are buried prevents unintentional damage, service interruptions, potential fines and costly repairs. Residents must contact 811 every time, even if they have done so previously for a similar project, as the depth of utilities can vary, and there may be multiple utilities located in the same area, the release said.

When calling 811, information will be collected about your digging plans, and local pipeline and utility companies will be notified about the project. Representatives will be sent to mark the approximate location of underground utilities using color-coded paint, flags or stakes. If there are no underground utilities in the area, they will mark “clear,” the release said.

811 needs to be contacted at least two business days before digging. Visit www.laonecall.com or call811.com for information.

Project Planning

  • Regardless of the depth of the digging or familiarity with the property, always contact 811 before starting a project that involves digging.
  • If a contractor has been hired, confirm they have done so. Don’t allow work to start until all utilities have been marked.
  • After waiting the required time for markings, if utilities have not been marked, contact 811 again to check the status of your request before digging. Also confirm whether the markings have an expiration date and when they will need to be re-marked.
  • If a project is located near the paint, flags or stakes, contact the underground operator for the specific steps you should take.