OPINION: A simple call can save your life

Published 11:10 am Tuesday, August 8, 2023

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“It takes too much time.”

“I heard it’s expensive.”

“I didn’t know 811 existed!”

Reece Graves

During my 33-year career as a natural gas worker, I’ve heard every excuse and explanation for not calling 811 before digging. And, I’ve seen the repercussions in real time.

One homeowner nearly lost his life while using a trencher to install a new drain. He accidentally hit a natural gas line, causing seventy pounds of pressurized natural gas to blow from the damaged pipeline. My Piedmont Natural Gas crew got the call and arrived at the scene to assess and repair the damage.

As our crew was working, a neighbor turned the trencher on to move it away from the damage. The engine ignition sparked an explosion, lighting the natural gas on fire. The
force blew the neighbor off his feet and into the air. He was grateful to escape uninjured, but he was left distressed and ashamed.

When the situation was safe, I asked the homeowner if he called 811. He didn’t. Unfortunately, a do-it-yourself home improvement project turns into an emergency thousands of times a year. Already in 2023, Piedmont Natural Gas reported damage to underground natural gas lines over 1,200 times.

National Safe Digging Day (also known as 811 Day) is observed Aug. 11 to remind professional excavators and do-it-yourselfers of the importance of calling 811 before digging to protect the nation’s underground utility infrastructure, prevent potential personal injury and natural gas outages.

The national “811 Call Before You Dig” system was created so anyone who plans to dig can have underground utility lines clearly marked with stakes, flags or paint at least three business days before digging begins.

This 811 Day, please remember to pick up your phone and dial 811 every time you pick up a shovel. Calling 811 can save your life.

Reece Graves is a crew lead for Piedmont Natural Gas.