“It’s incredibly important to contact 811 to have utility lines located before digging,” said Jaimie Lemke, NW Natural’s damage prevention supervisor. “It’s free, and it’s the law. It can also help prevent service interruption, thousands of dollars in damages, and the risk of injuries.”
Here in the Northwest, NW Natural responds to more than 500 dig-ins or damages each year in its service territory, which are often caused by a third-party contractor or homeowner who didn’t call 811 before starting a project.
NW Natural has a team of employees dedicated to educating contractors in such damage prevention efforts, and has reduced damages by about 70% since 2006 when it began comprehensive efforts to address the issue. In 2021 NW Natural became the first Oregon-based utility to earn a Gold Shovel Stand Certification for its commitment to practicing and promoting safe excavation practices.
A new national public opinion survey of homeowners conducted by Common Ground Alliance revealed 74% of American homeowners plan to complete a home improvement project involving digging this year, and approximately 49.3 million Americans will take a risk by not contacting 811 beforehand.
The most popular planned projects cited among surveyed homeowners who plan to dig include:
- Planting a tree or shrub: 74%
- Building a fence: 28%
- Building a deck or patio: 24%
- Installing a mailbox: 20%
- Something else: 8%
More important safety reminders:
- Report damages immediately: If while digging, you accidentally hit a gas line, report it immediately by calling NW Natural’s 24-hour emergency line at 800-882-3377, or 911. No damage is too small to report, even a small dent could weaken a natural gas line.
- Smell. Go. Let us know. If you smell natural gas, leave the area immediately, then call us at 800-882-3377 and we will come over to check things out.
For more information, visit nwnatural.com/safety/call-before-you-dig.