You’re helping one of your buddies install a fence around his house and, in the process of digging, you strike what feels like a rock. No worries. Texas is full of rocks so you keep going. You give it your best Paul Bunyan and instead of breaking rock you hear a crack and then a loud hiss. It’s at that moment that you realize you’ve damaged a gas line and just put you, your friend, and the surrounding neighborhood in danger.
This scenario and others were recently demonstrated at CPS Energy’s Excavator Safety Day, a half-day event open to area excavators, first responders, public officials, and pipeline operators. The goal is to get more people to dig safely.
Last year local contractors caused more than $428,400 in damages to CPS Energy underground infrastructure as a result of 357 incidents.
Don Stanton, senior director of Gas Delivery, wants this demonstration to serve as a reminder of what to do when an underground utility line is accidentally struck. But, first and foremost, he wants people to call 811 to avoid the problem in the first place.
You have probably heard our public safety catchphrase “Call Before You Dig,” a reference to calling 8-1-1 before digging around underground utilities. Texas811, a non-profit company that coordinates requests for underground utility locations, also drills home that message.
I caught up with Texas811 Damage Prevention Manager Doug Meeks and asked him how his company is involved with excavation safety. Meeks explained that after Texas811 receives a call “we’ll inform area utilities of the request which then prompts the utilities (CPS Energy included), to go out and mark their underground lines so that digging can be done safely and without damage.” CPS Energy is one of the largest Texas811 members.
We care about your safety, and that’s why we tell you to call 811. It’s paying off. Many contractors are now being proactive about having underground infrastructure located. In 2015, there was a 23 percent increase in the number of calls to 811 from the previous year.
So, if you’ve ever wondered why we place different colored flags in the ground around a construction site or a yard, now you know. Those flags mark what’s below. Our hope is that you will use that knowledge to protect yourself, co-workers, or neighborhood from a potentially dangerous underground line hit.