LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Call before you dig

Published 3:27 pm Thursday, April 11, 2024

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There is one natural gas emergency I will never forget.

When I pulled into the driveway, a young couple approached me, crying and terrified, asking for help.

They were digging in their backyard, planning to plant a tree, when they struck a natural gas line. Pressurized natural gas gushed out of the severed line, frightening the young couple, prompting them to call Piedmont Natural Gas. After arriving on scene, I called local emergency responders, and a team of natural gas technicians to fix the damaged pipeline.

When the situation was safe, I pulled the couple aside and asked them if they called 811.

Their response … “we’ve never heard of 811.”

I’ve been a volunteer firefighter for 37 years and a Piedmont Natural Gas worker for 25 years, responding to hundreds of natural gas emergencies caused by excavating projects. In that time, I’ve heard many explanations for not calling 811 before digging.

Keeping our customers and communities safe is at the heart of what we do. It is important that our customers know to call 811 at least three business days before digging begins to have underground lines properly identified and marked. Calling 811 is free service that prevents injuries, outages and costly repairs before a landscaping or yard project begins.

Every April, there’s a surge of outdoor work and construction projects that involve digging. That’s why April is National Safe Digging Month, and I encourage everyone to plan ahead and call 811 before putting a shovel in the ground.

Dwayne Westcott
Piedmont Natural Gas