811 for the Ag community
Farming operations have the potential for catastrophic outcomes when it comes to hitting buried utilities. Whether it’s a gas line, electrical cable, or water pipe, damaging these underground utilities can have far-reaching consequences for generations to come.
Tips to Remember
Never assume the location of a buried utility or attempt to mark it yourself
Regulations require that only utility company employees or its representatives are approved and qualified to mark a buried utility. Contacting 811 will notify the utility operator that you intend to work in the area of their underground utility and provide them an opportunity to check the depth of the utility to determine if additional actions are needed such as adding cover, lowering utility, or other special requirements.
Become familiar with the 811 system and the State's one call laws
For example, the utility company representative may be required to stand by to ensure work performed near a utility is done safely.
Contact 811 before any deep plowing, ripping, fence building, or drain tiling
It’s FREE, it’s SIMPLE, & it’s THE LAW
Wait for the utility company to mark
Don’t just rely on permanent underground utility markers to identify the location of buried utilities. These markers indicate the general location, not the exact location,
the depth, or the number of utilities.
Be sure to wait for the utility company to mark its utility. Once you have waited the required amount of time, verify that all utilities have responded to the request (check Positive Response). Some utility companies have heightened safety measures and may need to be on-site when work begins.
When working around utilities, be sure to dig with hand-digging tools to expose the utility
Use hand-digging tools to expose the utility when working around utilities. Dig with care using appropriate hand digging or vacuum excavation tools to expose the underground utility for your safety. Backhoes, augers, and other mechanical equipment should not be used when digging near utility lines. The utility company will instruct you on the proper
methods while working around their utility. Be sure to know the tolerance zone and never remove flags stakes or paint marks until you finish digging.
Know what to do if there is a damage or leak
Notify the utility company & Alabama 811 right away if you dent, scrape, or damage ANY type of underground line while digging. The damaged facility will be inspected &, if needed, repaired to prevent future consequences.
If the damage results in escaping flammable, corrosive, explosive, or toxic liquid or gas, immediately leave the area in an upwind direction & direct others to stay away. Once you’re in a safe location, dial 911 first, notify the utility company, & then report the damage to Alabama 811. Never continue to operate mechanical equipment in an area where you suspect a gas leak. This could cause an ignition putting you in great danger.
Myth # 1
811 is only for digging
The definition of “normal farming practices” can be interpreted in many ways and varies between states. So, contacting 811 before any digging project is always the safe thing to do!
Some agricultural examples of when to contact 811 include:
- drain tile installation projects
- chisel plowing
- deep ripping
- building a waterway
- digging fence posts
- drilling water or irrigation wells
Myth # 2
“I know where the utilities are / I’ve contacted 811 before..”
The depth of pipelines and other utilities can change over time due to natural forces such as erosion or other dirt-moving activities. Or perhaps new facilities were installed since the last time you contacted 811.
DON’T make a risky assumption. Contact 811 Every time you plan on digging.
Myth # 3
“I’m not digging very deep..”
It is better to be safe than sorry, even for a small project.
811 will notify the proper utility companies so that they can have an employee or representative come out and locate the approximate location of the utilities before you dig.
Myth # 4
“Calling 811 will cost me time and money.”
Contacting 811 is FREE to you! – The cost is paid by utility companies to protect you.
After notifying 811, professional utility locators will visit your site within the 2 working day notice (life-of-ticket example)
Myth # 5
“If I hit a pipeline and nothing happens, there’s nothing to worry about..”
Even if it appears that the utility isn’t damaged, always call and notify the utility company.
Even a small dent, scrape, gouge, or scratch in a pipeline or other apparently minor damages could cause a major problem in the future.
Contact 811 to get your underground utilities marked everytime before you dig
The fact is, underneath much of America’s farmland lies buried pipeline and utilities. These utilities may carry natural gas or oil, electricity, communication lines, or water. Any one of these utilities struck during a farming operation can cause dangerous consequences for you, your family, tenants, hired hands, your neighbors, your community, and the environment, possibly impacting your farm for years.