811: The Number To Call Before Digging

Whether you’re planting a garden, installing a mailbox or hiring a contractor, for a more complex job, it’s important to call 811 before digging in your yard.

Why? Calling 811 will get your underground utility lines marked and your project off to a safe start.

Utility services such as cable TV, telephone, electric, gas, water, and sewer are often buried underground. Unintentionally striking one of these lines could result in more trouble than you’d expect – think power outages for entire neighborhoods, injury, fines, and/or repair costs.

That’s why it’s better to make a phone call than a judgement call.

The free, federally mandated national number to call before digging aims to make the process easier. Instead of looking up phone numbers for all the local utility companies, you just need to call 811. Learn more at Call811.com.

Does every digging project require a call?

Yes. Many utilities are buried just a few inches below the ground, and you could easily hit a line for simple projects like planting flowers. Whether it’s putting a mailbox into the ground, installing a fence, planting trees, building a patio or deck, or excavating a new garden area, officials say that you should play it safe and call 811. (It’s free!)

If you’re digging in a small area and don’t need your whole yard marked, you can outline the area of your project with white paint or flags. They’re easy to find at home improvement stores. Make sure to let the 811 operator know about your plans so he or she can direct the utility companies to the proper location.

How do I get a utility line marked?

You need to dial 811 several days before you plan to start your digging project. Some states accept online requests, but it varies by location. Be sure to check your state’s one-call center for more detailed information. Each state has different rules and regulations about digging.

When you make your request, a representative will collect your information and notify local utility companies of your intent to dig.

After you call, a professional will visit the dig site to mark the approximate location of all underground utility lines with spray paint or flags.

What are the standard color codes for underground utilities?

The colored flags in your yard each have a meaning. The standard utility service paint or flags colors are:

  • Red: Electric
  • Orange: Communications, telephone/CATV
  • Blue: Drinking water
  • Green: Sewer/Drainage
  • Yellow: Gas/Petroleum pipeline
  • Purple: Reclaimed water, irrigation, and slurry lines
  • White: Site of intended excavation
  • Pink: Survey markings

How long will it take to get my utility lines marked?

Most crews will arrive to mark your property within a 2-3 working days.

The crew will make sure you know exactly where (and where not) to dig. The depths of utility lines may vary, and there may be multiple utility lines in the same area. Once your site is marked, it is safe to begin digging outside of the identified areas.

Insurance and digging projects

If you’re digging as part of a home improvement project, you might want to check in with your insurance agent. A major home improvement project like a deck, patio, or landscaping could increase the value of your home, so you’ll want to be sure you have the proper amount of coverage. Learn more about homeowners insurance from ERIE and request a free quote.

Does homeowners insurance cover underground service lines?

Typical homeowners insurance policies do not provide coverage for damage to underground service lines or pipes. The lines can be damaged during excavation or digging from the weight of vehicles or equipment above ground. The costs to repair the damage can be substantial.

If you have an ErieSecure Home® insurance policy, you can purchase additional protection that covers the cost of these service line repairs as well as related excavation costs, outdoor property damage, and even loss of use. With ERIE’s Service Line Coverage* as part of your home insurance, you won’t be stuck footing the bill on your own for these service line failures to your exterior underground service lines.

Related: Learn More About Service Line Coverage

Service line coverage is available when you add either the Plus or Select bundle to an ErieSecure Home® policy. Talk to your local Erie Insurance agent today to get a quote on homeowners insurance that includes service line coverage.

The story was originally published on June 10, 2015. It was updated with new information in 2019.

*Coverage is not available in all states. Coverage is subject to terms, conditions, limits, exclusions, and applicable deductible. See individual policies for specific coverage details and exclusions. Please refer to our disclaimer and talk to your ERIE agent for state-specific policy information

All service line failures caused by the same event are considered one failure. Blockage or low pressure with no physical damage to the service line is not covered. Lines from a home to a septic tank are covered, but lines from a septic tank to a leach field are not covered. Piping or wiring running through or under your home or other structure or a body of water including a pool, pond, or lake is not covered. Piping or wiring that is not connected and ready for use is not covered.

November 30th, -0001 by Lentz-Koma Insurance Agency, LLC