April 8, 2014: Avista today announced results from a recent survey that found 51 percent of American homeowners who plan to dig this year for projects that include landscaping, installing a fence or mailbox, and building a deck or patio, will put themselves and communities at risk by not calling 811 to learn the approximate location of underground utilities, which is the law. This locator service for underground utilities, from dialing 811, is free for homeowners.
Additionally, 67 percent of the surveyed homeowners who plan to dig reported knowing that paint and flags are used to mark buried utilities, indicating that awareness of underground infrastructure among “DIYers” is high, even if their awareness of the importance of calling 811 before digging is relatively low.
Digging without knowing the approximate location of underground utilities increases the likelihood of unintentional damage, which can cause serious injuries, service disruptions and repair costs. An underground utility line is damaged every six minutes nationwide because someone decided to dig without first calling 811, according to data collected by the Common Ground Alliance (CGA), the national organization dedicated to protecting underground utility lines and the safety of people who dig near them.
There are more than 100 billion feet of underground utilities in the United States, according to data compiled by CGA from various industry groups. That figure equates to more than one football field’s length (105 yards) of buried utilities for every man, woman and child in the U.S.
Everyone who calls 811 before digging is connected to a local one call notification center that will take the caller’s information and communicate it to local utility companies. Professional locators will then visit the dig site, within two days of the call, to mark the approximate location of underground utility lines with spray paint or flags. Those planning to dig should mark the specific area where they plan to dig with white paint or other markings, so that the locator can identify the location of underground utilities in relation to the planned dig site. Once a site has been marked by the locator, it is safe to begin hand digging in the areas marked by the locator. There is a 24 inch hand digging zone on each side of the locator marks.
“According to the survey results, homeowners who plan to dig this year know the paint marks and flags on the ground are used to identify underground utilities, but among these ‘DIYers,’ more than half will not call 811, increasing the chances for injuries and utility service outages in their neighborhoods,” said Tim Mair, Avista Manager of Gas Operations Spokane “With spring upon us, tens of millions of homeowners will reach for their shovels and begin digging for landscape and other home improvement projects. It is critical for them to pick up the phone and make the 811 call at least two business days before those projects begin.”
This national public opinion survey of 592 homeowners, conducted Feb. 26 – March 2, also found that homeowners will call 811 for certain projects, but not for all DIY landscape projects. Homeowners will not call 811 for the following DIY projects:
· 84 percent – Planting shrubs
· 63 percent – Planting a tree
· 61 percent – Installing a pole for a basketball hoop
· 50 percent – Building a deck
· 46 percent – Installing a fence
· 45 percent – Digging a patio
The survey also identified top reasons why people do not plan to call 811 before digging. Fifty-six percent said that they felt they already knew where utilities were buried on their property, and 47 percent did not think they would dig deep enough to come in contact with utility lines, despite the fact that utilities can sometimes be just a few inches below the surface due to erosion and other topography changes.
Avista and CGA’s 1,500 members, the U.S. Department of Transportation, most governors including Gov. Jay Inslee have issued a proclamation announcing April as Safe Digging Month as a way to bring extra attention to the issue and reduce the risk of unnecessary infrastructure damage.
As part of National Safe Digging Month, Avista encourages homeowners to take the following steps when planning a digging project this spring:
· Always call 811 at least two business days before digging, regardless of the depth or familiarity with the property. OR www.call811.com.
· Consider moving the location of your project if it is near utility line markings.
- If a contractor has been hired, confirm that a call to 811 has been made under the excavator’s name. Don’t allow work to begin if the lines aren’t marked.
About the study
International Communications Research (ICR) conducted a national omnibus phone study between Feb. 26 and March 2, 2014, on behalf of CGA. A total of 592 American homeowners ages 18+ were asked for their opinions on home and property improvement project topics. The survey had a margin of error that varied from +-2.2 percent to +-5.7 percent, depending on the particular survey question.
About Avista Utilities
Avista Utilities is involved in the production, transmission and distribution of energy. We provide energy services and electricity to 364,000 customers and natural gas to 321,000 customers in a service territory that covers 30,000 square miles in eastern Washington, northern Idaho and parts of southern and eastern Oregon, with a population of 1.5 million. Avista Utilities is an operating division of Avista Corp. (NYSE: AVA). For more information, please visit www.avistautilities.com.
The Avista logo is a trademark of Avista Corporation.
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