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Before you use that shovel, read this.

April 5, 2018

A woman digging.

When we say “Call before you dig,” we’re not just talking to those people in hard hats who work for construction companies and operate giant backhoes. We’re talking to you. You, standing in your backyard, trying to decide whether to plant the tomatoes by the garage or over by the fence this year. Before you use that shovel in your hand, read this.

Every six minutes, an underground utility line is damaged because someone decided to dig without calling 811. That means every six minutes, a person digging risks everything from gross inconvenience to fines to repair costs to injury and even death. And in case you’re picturing big, dramatic gas explosions and thinking that would never happen to you, consider that you could hit your internet line while digging. The threat of being unable to binge-watch your latest Netflix favorite may just be enough to convince you to contact Gopher State One Call.

And if you think most utilities are buried too deep to pose a threat, think again. Factors such as erosion and construction can bring once-deep utilities just inches from the surface. The most compelling reason to request a utilities locate, though, is that it’s the law. Minnesota state law – enforced, in this case, by the Office of Pipeline Safety – requires that anyone engaging in any type of excavation to contact Gopher State One Call at least two business days in advance.

You might feel as if calling 811 is an inconvenience, but it’s actually quite easy. In fact, you don’t necessarily need to call; you can enter your dig information online. Plus, it’s free for you—the cost is covered by Minnesota’s underground facility operators. You’ll need to tell them (or enter) the following information:

  • Your name
  • Your phone number
  • Your street address
  • The dig location
  • The nearest intersection
  • The type of work
  • The date and time you plan to start digging

If you don’t want them to mark your entire lot for underground utilities, make sure to mark off the place where you plan to dig with white stakes or spray paint. Your request will get forwarded to any organization that might have underground facilities near your dig site. They’ll review the information you give and, if necessary, send someone out to mark the site so you can see what underground utilities you need to watch out for while working on your project.

With snow still on the ground, you may not be ready to dig just yet—but April is Safe Digging Month, and it’s the perfect time to plan ahead for your summer projects that involve digging. That way you’ll be able to plant those tomatoes without worrying about an explosion or even a hiccup in your internet connection.