Don’t miss this critical step before your next gardening or home improvement project

(BPT) – With spring officially here, homeowners and landscape professionals alike will be reaching for their shovels to start digging projects – from planting trees and creating garden beds to installing new mailboxes, fences or pools. Before you put your shovel in the ground, don’t miss the critical step that can protect you, your neighbors and the utility services you rely on: contacting 811.

As 58% of American homeowners plan to dig this year – according to research from the Common Ground Alliance (CGA) – contacting 811 before digging is critical to avoid unintentionally striking a utility line. Unfortunately, approximately 34.9 million people across the country will skip this crucial step before starting their project, which can result in inconvenient outages for entire neighborhoods, serious harm to yourself or your neighbors, and significant repair costs.

Contacting 811 – by making a free call to 811 or, in most areas, a request online – connects you to your local one call utility notification center to have underground utilities marked so that they are not damaged during digging projects. Every digging project, no matter how large or small, warrants contacting 811. Installing a mailbox or fence, building a deck and landscaping are all examples of digging projects that should only begin a few days after calling 811 or submitting a request online.

‘A utility line is damaged every few minutes in America because someone decided to dig without contacting 811 to learn the approximate location of buried utilities in their area,’ said CGA President and CEO Sarah Magruder Lyle. ‘With an estimated 71 million Americans planning home improvements as the weather warms up, contacting 811 a few days before any projects that require digging – including common landscaping projects like planting trees and shrubs – is critical to preventing incidents like service outages and serious injuries.’

To help keep yourself safe and connected to important utilities, follow these simple safe digging steps before your next project:

1. A free, simple phone call to 811, or a visit to to submit an online request, makes it easy for your local one call center to notify appropriate utility companies of your intent to dig. Contact 811 a few days prior to digging to ensure enough time for the approximate location of utility lines to be marked with flags or paint.

2. Know where you plan to dig and have a basic idea of what you plan to do. When you contact 811, your local one call center will ask you to provide the location and description of your digging project.

3. Your local one call center will notify affected utility companies, which will then send professional locators to the proposed dig site to mark the approximate location of buried utility lines with colored flags and paint.

4: Wait the required amount of time for the lines to be marked. Once all lines have been accurately marked, carefully dig around the marked areas.

There are more than 20 million miles of underground utility lines in the United States, which equates to more than a football field’s length of utilities for every person in the U.S. Your family depends on this buried infrastructure for your everyday needs, including electric, natural gas, water and sewer, cable TV, high-speed internet and landline telephone. With that much critical infrastructure underground, it’s important to know what’s below and contact 811 before digging. To find out more information about safe digging, including links to your local one call center, visit