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Know what’s below before you dig, call Arizona 811

By the end of this post, you will know how to dig safely. Especially with cooler temps on the horizon, you might be ready to finally tackle those “I’ll get around to it someday” outdoor projects. Good for you! 

But before you start anything that involves shoveling or drilling into your yard, we’d like to offer some advice to keep you and your community safe:  

CALL 811 BEFORE YOU DIG.

Somewhere buried in your yard are electrical utilities, gas pipelines, telecommunications systems, and sewer and water pipelines. Making contact with these can cause serious problems, injuries and even death.  

By calling Arizona 811 (also known as Blue Stake)  before you dig, you can get an expert to stake out your utility lines and avoid major hazards. 

Not calling can lead to dangerous consequences, something a contractor recently experienced while working on an underground parking garage.

A cautionary tale about digging

Our safety team recently shared a story about a third-party contractor who was directed by a general contractor to install columns for underground parking at a mall. The third-party contractor was tasked to drill footers with a power auger, a drilling device used for making holes.  

When the third-party contractor drilled down with the auger, he came across unexpected concrete. He stopped work and contacted the general contractor to determine next steps.  

Instead of calling 811, the general contractor instructed the third-party contractor to get back to work and keep drilling. So he did. 

While drilling through the concrete, the third-party contractor’s auger contacted a 7,200-volt underground power line. This took out power to the entire mall and burned the third-party contractor so severely he had to be transported to a burn unit. 

A regrettable and preventable accident

SRP claims went to the scene and saw that, unfortunately, no one had called Arizona 811 to have the underground power lines marked.  

Thankfully, the third-party contractor is recovering from his injuries. However, this accident was 100% preventable. If the contractors had followed the law, called 811 and had the lines marked before drilling, this accident could have been avoided.

Why are we telling you this story?

The reason for this cautionary tale is to remind you that the same rules that apply at a construction site also apply to you and your backyard projects.  

Even if you’re not a contractor, every digging job requires an 811 call. Even “small” projects like planting trees and shrubs. 

What to expect when you call 811

Before you start a project, it’s important to contact Arizona 811 so you know what lies below your dig site. Please allow a few days for this to be done. Here’s what you need to do: 

  1. Create a ticket
  2. Wait for someone to mark any underground lines, pipes and cables.
  3. Safely get to work!  

Once you have responses from all of the facilities listed on your ticket, you can start your project.

Dig into more tips for tackling outdoor projects safely

Whether you are trimming trees or digging holes, here are some tips to do it safely:  

  • Be aware of your surroundings. Make sure to look up and around for any power lines before starting jobs outside.
  • Planting trees and shrubs? Do not plant within 3 feet of the sides and rear or within 12 feet of the front of underground equipment.
  • If you see a tree growing close to a power line, don’t try to trim it yourself. Call SRP at (602) 236-8888.
  • Brush up on what to do in the event of an electrical emergency or downed power line.

If you have an electrical emergency, please call SRP at (602) 236-8811, or (602) 236-1100 for a Spanish-speaking representative. 

Be sure to check out more safe digging tips. And please remember, always call 811 before you dig!

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