Critical first step to take before outdoor spring projects

April is Dig Safely Month

DETROIT – The weather is getting warmer, which means you’re probably starting to make plans for your outdoor space.

If those plans include building, digging or excavating, there’s one simple step you need to take first.

Take a look at your yard. Just a few feet below are lines and pipes running to and from your home. You may think they’re far down below, you have no real way of knowing the depth and exact placement.

That’s why April is Dig Safely Month. It’s designed to remind residents and excavators to take safe digging measures with every project, large or small.

When you’re planning a project, call MISS DIG at 800-482-7171 or 811. MISS DIG is a Michigan nonprofit corporation that operates as the Underground Utility Safety Notification System. The best part is it’s free.

MISS DIG has received more than 21 million locate requests resulting in nearly 189 million transmissions since 1970.

Gail Wyckhouse is the dducation and marketing manager for MISS DIG. She says all you have to do is contact the company a few days before you start your project. MISS DIG will then notify the right people who will come out and mark your property. Facility owners or operators will mark the underground pipes and lines with flags and/or temporary paint to represent what’s underneath (ie. Sewer line, gas line, etc.).

"There’s so much going on underground," Wyckhouse said. "It can be so dangerous if you dig without having an idea of where these utilities are, so you don’t want somebody to get hurt or killed or maybe not be able to watch the game on Sunday."

Terry DeDoes, a Consumers Energy spokesperson, said the company has miles and miles of underground utilities. He says it’s very important for the maintenance of the lines, the safety of workers, and for the safety of the homeowners to call MISS DIG before any project is started.

DeDoes said people and contractors get rusty at remembering where exactly the lines are after a long winter. A simple day of marking the underground utilities will only help everyone involved.

It’s not just the small projects either. Hand tools used for planting can also do damage. More than 80 percent of “no call” damages involved hand tools damaging natural gas facilities.

The lines are made of plastic and can be punctured easily. If a gas line is hit, that could be very dangerous.

In 2018, the total number of homeowner damages to Consumers Energy natural gas and electric lines was down 6 percent; however, the biggest reason damages continue to occur is because MISS DIG 811 wasn’t contacted before digging began. A total of 278 damages by residents occurred in 2018, down from 296 in 2017. The biggest increase in residential damages was due to fencing installation, though landscaping projects are also high on the damage list.

Crews offered four key safe digging tips:

  • Contact MISS DIG at least three business days before digging to have underground utilities marked.
  • Wait to dig until you are sure all lines are marked with flags and/or paint or cleared by the utility. Confirm this by calling MISS DIG at 8-1-1 or visiting response.missdig811.org
  • Respect the marks and dig with care. If the project is within four feet of the marks dig carefully with hand tools or modify your plans to be further from the marks. If using power equipment within four feet of the marks, always use a wooden handled tool to carefully expose the lines and confirm their exact location before starting to excavate.
  • Be sure to contact MISS DIG prior to digging if using a contractor, or be sure that person makes the contact.
  • Basically, it’s fast, it’s free and it’s the law.

    Visit MISS DIG by clicking here.

    You can enter a ticket for them to review by clicking here or call 811 to place a ticket by phone.

    Visit the Consumers Energy website here.

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