Operational Excellence
March 25, 2021

A dig mistake can be a big mistake.

Always contact 811 before you dig

As the flowers begin to bloom, later rather than sooner in some areas, many of you will begin spending more time outside working on your home and yard projects. Some projects will include digging, which can be dangerous if you don’t know what is underneath the ground’s surface. Xcel Energy wants you to make a habit of contacting 811 before you dig.

Many people still don’t consider it dangerous to dig in their yard without having buried lines located. But hitting a gas or electric line, even with a shovel, can be seriously bad news. Damaging or striking a single utility line can create a dangerous situation, resulting in injury, loss of services, significant repair costs, fines or even death. Excavators or contractors who do not call 811 before digging and hit an underground line could be held liable for any associated damages

ALWAYS Call 811 before you dig

Since 2018, Xcel Energy has partnered with Colorado 811 in Colorado, and CenterPoint Energy and Gopher State One Call in Minnesota, to pool resources and maximize their ability to encourage everyone to contact 811 to have underground utility lines marked before starting any digging projects. The group set up a shared website in 2020 – 811first.com – to encourage everyone to contact 811 to have underground utility lines marked before starting any digging projects.

Calling 811 ahead of digging to locate buried lines should be everybody’s habit. Find your state’s wait time and call center link below:

  • Colorado (3 days): co811.org
  • Michigan (3 days): missdig.net
  • Minnesota (2 days): gopherstateonecall.org
  • New Mexico (2 days): nm811.org
  • North Dakota (3 days): ndonecall.com
  • South Dakota (2 days): sdonecall.com
  • Texas (2 days): texas811.org
  • Wisconsin (3 days): diggershotline.com

Safe digging tips
Here are a few other safety tips you can practice during Safe Digging Month to help form good safety habits:

  • Always call 811 before you dig – Call 811 at least three business days before you plan to dig (find your state’s wait time). 811 will route you to the correct state call center. The utilities will locate their buried lines for free. If you have a line that you’ve installed on your own, like for a gas grill or electricity in a shed or garage, you are responsible to have those located prior to digging (not included in the 811 request). Please know that Xcel Energy can’t mark underground lines owned or installed by our customers (such as lines to a barbecue grill, garage or pool). If you have these types of customer-installed lines, you’re responsible for marking and maintaining them. Third party contractors, such as plumbing and heating contractors, can assist in locating, inspecting, and repairing the customer’s buried piping.
  • It’s the law – Any time you plan to dig in the yard, it is the law for you to call 811 for utilities to locate their lines before you dig. It’s important to remember that this is the law.
  • Digging without locates can be dangerous and costly – Failure to call for locates could result in damages to our underground systems (electric and natural gas), fines to the property owner, and could cause bodily harm or death.
  • Depth can be deceptive – The depth of utility lines will NEVER be indicated. And, depth changes over time, with erosion, storms, floods, soil condition, heaving in winter from frost, changes to landscape ALL of these can change (considerably) the depth of any given utility. Cable companies are notorious for burying their lines VERY shallow.
  • What you don’t know CAN hurt you – Even if you have lived there for 30 years, things CAN and DO change in YOUR yard. Cross Boring, for example, happens without the home-owners permission.
  • Smells like rotten eggs – If you nick a gas line, you must call 911 first, then Xcel Energy to investigate and repair. Natural gas in its original state has no odor. We add an odorant to the natural gas, called mercaptan, to help you recognize a gas leak – to some it smells like rotten eggs but it may smell differently to you. If you cause damage to a natural gas line, and notice a sulfur or rotten egg-like smell, the first thing to do is quickly move away from the area, and get others away. Do not use anything that could create a spark (e.g. lighter, matches, light switch, garage door openers, ignition switch and even a cell phone). Once safely away, call 911 AND Xcel Energy. Visit our website for more information about natural gas safety.
  • Hand-digging – Before you can safely work close to or cross an underground utility line, you must first hand-dig to expose the line and verify its exact location and depth. Be knowledgeable about the hand-digging tolerance zone laws in each state.
  • Some lines will not be marked – All  customers need to make arrangements with a private locate company to locate lines not owned by a utility, such as a line installed by a homeowner to heat a pool or light a garage.
  • Assume power lines are energized – Another important safety reminder – ALWAYS assume that power lines are energized. Especially be mindful after a storm. Just because there are no sparks or sound, it doesn’t mean that the power line is not energized. Summertime projects or outdoor fun, ALWAYS look up for overhead power lines and stay at least 10 feet away from them.
  • Look Up! – Consider what’s overhead or underground before planting anything that could possibly grow into electric or natural gas lines.

 Learn more by visiting www.XcelEnergy.com/Safety.