How Does 811 Work?

It is critical to call 811 before you dig. This process usually starts a few days before you plan to start a new project.  The 811 phone number is a toll free nationwide number and should always be called before starting any type of digging project. Be sure to look at your own state laws because most require two to three business days before excavating. It is very important to have all the details of your project such as the time and location of your project as well as the type of work you plan to do along with the equipment you plan to use.  The more details you have the better. After you make the 811 call, they will send a public locator out to mark the approximate locations with paint or flags.     

One of the biggest challenges for companies is understanding utility responsibility and how 811 works. When we think about utilities we should look at this in two different ways.  We have publicly owned and privately owned utilities. The easiest way to explain this is anything up to the meter is the public side and 811’s responsibility. So then everything after the meter is your responsibility which is the private side. 

There are certain limitations of the 811 process so it is crucial to think about having a company like GPRS come out.  According to Common Ground Alliance only 35% of all utilities are public so 65% of all utilities aren’t marked. Another challenge is limited deliverables so if you need field sketches you will need a private utility locator. The 811 process does not require the use of geophysical equipment so they often rely on existing records and visual observation which is Level D data.  The locators also focus on closing tickets quickly to meet their daily quota so sometimes the quality is lacking. The first step to a smarter job site is to call 811 and then hire GPRS. You always want to protect yourself and those around you. There is always a risk in striking an underground utility, even if you think you know or can identify what might be buried in the area of excavation but you can’t ever assume the depth of a utility and hitting a utility can cost you fines, repairs and even your life.

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