If you dig into the ground without first verifying the location of utility lines in that area, you may damage water, gas, electrical, communications or sewer lines. Digging blind is risky because it can cause utilities to be cut off, severe injury or expensive repairs. The good news is there are reliable utility locator services available with just a quick phone call.

One point which isn’t always clearly understood is the difference between public and private underground utility locators. SoftDig wants to help clear up the confusion. Be safe – get informed before you dig!

What is 811 One-Call?

You’ve probably heard the phrase, “call before you dig.” All around the country, this campaign has been launched to inform people about the importance of locating underground utilities before digging. Whether you’re putting in a pool, installing a fence or doing landscaping, you need to make sure the area is free of utility lines.

You, or the company you’ve hired to do the work, should call 811 from any state. Call before excavating on any piece of commercial or residential land, including your own private property. It’s a free service. Technicians will be sent to the site to locate public utilities using electromagnetic equipment. Then, they mark any that run from the street to the service meter. This will help homeowners and professionals prevent damage to public water, sewage, power and natural gas lines.

But this doesn’t mean that the area is clear and you’re free to proceed with the digging. One-call location crews only locate public utility lines.

When Do You Need a Private Utility Locator?

You will probably need to make a second call before starting your excavating project. Private utilities are the lines that run beyond the service meter. For example, electrical cables that go from the meter to a house or building would be considered private. To have these marked, you will need to call in a private underground utility locator.

Private locator crews don’t rely on utility maps because they are often missing, outdated, inaccurate or incomplete. Instead, they perform a thorough investigation of the area using a range of specialized tools. These include electromagnetic equipment, ground penetrating radar (GPR) and electronic or radio frequency (RF) pipe and cable locating tools. In the end, a private locator is able to produce complete, high-quality utility maps of where current and abandoned lines run.

What Are Private Utility Lines?

Most properties have unmarked private utility lines, but they present a real danger for anyone digging. It’s important to have all lines located and marked. These are just a few examples of underground utilities that might be hidden on your property.

  • Electricity for exterior lighting,
  • Propane lines,
  • Septic pipes,
  • Sprinkler systems,
  • Gas for heated pools,
  • Power for a detached garage,
  • Storm drains.

Where Are Private Utility Lines?

Just to give you some examples, private utility locators often work on sites such as:

  • Neighborhood communities,
  • Apartment complexes,
  • School grounds and college campuses,
  • Medical facilities,
  • Industrial areas,
  • Commercial property including a parking lot,
  • Government facility.

Each state has different laws, but generally private owners are responsible for maintaining these types of cables and pipes.

Before You Dig, Call SoftDig

Safety is the most important factor. Before anyone digs on your commercial or residential property, call in the experts. First, dial 811 and notify the public utility locators of your excavation plans. Next, call SoftDig.

Talk to a private underground utility locator at (610) 738-8762 or fill out our online estimate request form.

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