Staff Report

As spring arrives, home improvement and construction work steadily increases. Because these projects often require digging and excavation, April is designated as National Safe Digging Month.

According to the Common Ground Alliance’s damage information reporting tool (, an underground utility line is damaged every nine minutes in the United States.

The alliance is a nationwide public safety initiative supported by more than 1,000 utilities to raise awareness about the importance of having underground utility lines marked in advance of any digging project.

PG&E urges its customers to place a toll-free call to 8-1-1 or make an online request to have gas and electric lines marked, free of charge, at least two working days before the project begins.

“Last year, failure to call before digging resulted in more than 1,700 third-party dig-ins to PG&E’s underground utility lines. These dig-ins occurred during projects of all sizes, ranging from residential fence installation to major construction. … Calling 8-1-1 before you dig will help avoid injury or property damage and costly repairs that may result from striking underground gas or electric lines,” said PG&E Gas Operations Senior Vice President Jesus Soto.

Contractors are required by California Government Code 4216 to call 8-1-1 to have underground lines marked before digging.

PG&E says there were more than 1,700 “third-party dig-ins” in 2018 on its underground infrastructure across Northern and Central California, and nearly half of those resulted from failure to call 8-1-1 in advance.

Residential “dig-ins” by customers or contractors accounted for 22 percent of the total, and 86 percent of those residential problems resulted from not calling in advance.

The 8-1-1 number is a toll-free call that is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week in California, PG&E noted.