Know What’s Below: Steps for Safe Digging

CAT tractor digging in groundSpring is just around the corner, and there's never been a better time to get outside and enjoy the fresh air. Perhaps you're making plans for a remodel project renovation to your home or business. When you're planning to revamp your new project, remember to keep safety in mind--especially those that require digging near underground utility lines.

Most of us never think about the electric, gas, water, and other utility lines buried below the ground, but hitting one of these lines while digging is not the reminder you'll want--trust us! Yellowstone Valley Electric Cooperative reminds all members who are planning a digging project to call 811 at least three business days before you start. Or you can submit a request online by visiting the Montana 811 website.

Here's How the Process Works

After you call 811 or submit your request online, all affected utilities will be notified of your intent to dig. It may take the utilities a few days to get to your request, so please be patient. The affected utilities will send someone out to mark the buried lines with paint or flags. Before you break ground, confirm that all the utilities have responded to your request.

If you placed your request by phone, use the process explained by your 811 call center representative. If you submitted your request online, refer to your 811 center ticket to confirm everything.

By taking this important step before you break ground on your project, you can help protect not only yourself but our community. Disrupting an underground utility line can interrupt service, cause injuries, and cost money to repair, so remember to simply dial 811, or if you are calling from outside of Montana or having difficulties using 811, dial (800) 424-5555.

5 Steps for Safe Digging

  1. Notify — Call 8-1-1 or make a request online two to three days before you start.
  2. Wait — Wait two to three days for a response to your request. Affected utilities will send a locator to mark any underground utility lines.
  3. Confirm — Confirm that all affected utilities have responded by comparing the markers to the list of utilities the 8-1-1 call center notified.
  4. Respect — Respect the markers provided by the affected utilities. They are your guide for the duration of your project.
  5. Dig carefully — If you can't avoid digging near the markers (within 18 to 24 inches on all sides, depending on state laws), consider moving your project.

Color Code

APWA Uniform Color Code for marking underground utility lines.

  • White: Proposed excavation
  • Pink: Temporary survey markings
  • Red: Electrical power lines, cables, conduit, and lighting cables
  • Yellow: Gas, oil, steam, petroleum, or gaseous materials
  • Orange: Communication, alarm, or signal lines, cables, or conduit
  • Blue: Potable water
  • Purple: Reclaimed water, irrigation, and slurry lines
  • Green: Sewer and drain lines