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Working in your garden or DIY landscape project? Call before you dig

North Carolina 811 is the communication link with your local utility providers that may have buried utilities in your area.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Digging in your yard seems simple. It's your yard, right? 

But did you know every 9 minutes an underground utility line is damaged? 

And when you start digging without knowing where utility lines are you and your neighbors are now sitting in the dark.

That's why 811 offers its services for *free* to you. So you know where you can dig safely without causing any damage.  

Louis Panzer with North Carolina 8-1-1 joins 2 Wants to Know to talk about how 811 can help you dig safely.  

What is 811?

North Carolina 811 is the communication link with your local utility providers that may have buried utilities in your area. You 811 the information about your excavation project, then we transmit that information to the utilities, and they send out locators to mark your publicly managed underground lines for FREE.

How 811 works

  • Step one: Call either 811 or 1-800-632-4949 or submit your utility locate request on nc811.org using Single Address Ticket or Remote Ticket Entry.
  • Step two: Wait the required time before you start digging. Locators will need 3 full working days to come to your property and mark the buried utilities.
  • Step three: Check the status of your locate ticket with our Positive Response system.
  • You can check to see if all lines have been marked simply by using Positive Response on our website or on the NC811 app.
  • Step four: Respect the marks. Once the underground facilities have been located it is very important that the stakes, flags, or paint not be disturbed. You may want to explain to young children that the brightly colored flags are not toys and should not be removed from the ground.
  • Step five: Dig with care. The width of the location tolerance zone includes 24 inches on each side of the utility plus the width of the utility itself. If you need to dig within the tolerance zone, digging with caution by hand is recommended to help reduce the possibility of damage to the utility.

What's underground that I should know about? 

You can see 4,190,000 miles of roads in the U.S. according to the Federal Highway Administration. What you can't see is: 

  • 2,600,000+ miles of pipelines 
  • 485,000 miles of cable  
  • 1,000,000+ miles of water mains 
  • 1,000,000+ miles of sewer lines  
  • 2,000,000+ miles of power lines

If I don't call 811, what could happen?

45% of homeowners who plan to dig this year said in a recent survey that they would not call 811 beforehand, putting themselves and their communities at risk. 

Always call 811 before starting fencing & landscaping projects. 

Landowners completing these projects were more than three times more likely to hit a buried utility because they did not call 811 before breaking ground. 

More than 50% of damages to buried utilities were caused by not digging carefully. 

  • Move projects away from buried utilities
  • Dig in the area designated by your one call ticket 
  • Dig in the period indicated by your one call ticket 
  • Check for above-ground signs of utilities

Why are there flags in my yard? 

Facility members will mark their lines in either water-soluble paint or flags. Please stay at least 24 inches outside the exterior sides of any markings. If you must dig within the 24 inches please hand dig with caution.

Maintain the utility markings or request a re-mark. More than 10% of excavation-related damages with specific known causes can be traced to a failure to maintain utility markings. 

I'm not doing a big project, but I'm going to dig with my shovel. Is that fine?

Hand tools can damage unmarked gas lines. 

More than 80% of "no-call" damages involving hand tools damaged natural gas facilities.  

The bottom line is to call 811 before you dig. It's a free service. Once you call, you'll get a ticket and should give utility companies three days to come out to your property to mark utility lines. 

RELATED: Know What's Below Before You Dig. It's The Law.