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Don't Dig Yourself Into a Hole, Always Call 811 Before Any Excavation Project

Release Date: March 31, 2008
Contact: PG&E External Communications (415) 973-5930

SAN FRANCISCO — Spring is here and with nicer weather many homeowners plan to work on various projects around the home and garden. PG&E urges customers who have trees to plant, sprinkler systems to install and fences to fix to be mindful of underground natural gas and electric lines. Everyone should always call 811 before digging. The 811 hotline is a free service to obtain important information on what utilities exist beneath the excavation area.

Natural gas pipelines and electric power lines buried underground can lie within just a few feet of the surface. Accidental contact with these lines can be dangerous and even fatal. California law requires customers to notify utilities at least two working days before digging. Calling 811 puts customers in direct contact with Underground Service Alert (USA), a free utility notification service for anyone who plans any type of excavation project, no matter how small. Customers can call USA from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday, except for holidays.

“Calling 811 before digging is critically important to help avoid accidents and prevent serious injury, “said Bob Howard, vice president of gas transmission and distribution for Pacific Gas and Electric Company. "Safety is our highest priority. Since the depth of natural gas and electric lines buried underground can vary, we want customers to know that even simple digging projects can cause damage."

Accidental damage to utility lines can disrupt gas and electric service to an entire neighborhood, cause significant property damage and lead to serious bodily harm. USA notifies local utility companies to go out and mark the approximate location of their underground facilities in and around the excavation site. When underground lines are marked, customers can avoid them and prevent serious accidents from occurring.

PG&E receives approximately 600,000 "mark and locate" requests through USA each year. The company operates 150 vehicles outfitted with electronic mapping technology to help employees identify the location of underground gas and electric lines.

In addition to calling 811, PG&E offers these other tips for a safe excavation:

  • Call 811 at least 2 working days prior and up to 14 days in advance before the start of excavation
  • Customers will receive a list of notified utilities that may have underground lines in the area. If you believe a utility may not have marked their lines, call 811 again to notify USA
  • On paved surfaces, mark the proposed excavation area with white chalk-based paint. Homeowners can also use other white substances such as sugar or flour.
  • On unpaved surfaces use flags or stakes to mark the proposed excavation area
  • Carefully hand excavate if you are within 24 inches on either side of a utility-marked facility
  • Be careful not to erase facility 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 its 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:
    • Move to a safe location
    • Call 911
    • Call PG&E at 1-800-743-5000

    Pacific Gas and Electric Company, a subsidiary of PG&E Corporation, is one of the largest combined natural gas and electric utilities in the United States. Based in San Francisco, with 20,000 employees, the company delivers some of the nation’s cleanest energy to 15 million people in northern and central California.

    For more information on Call Before You Dig, please visit www.pge.com/safety
    For more information on 811, visit www.call811.com

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