Christina Nyquist Call before You Dig: How Can Three Numbers Save Lives?

811 Day reminds us to prevent pipeline damage by calling 811 before digging.

Natural gas is the affordable, abundant and domestic foundation fuel that currently meets almost one-fourth of all energy used in the United States.

I could expound on the merits of natural gas for an entire blog entry, but this post is actually about how we deliver this energy in the safest and most responsible way possible.

Safety is the top priority for America’s natural gas utilities, but the industry can’t do it alone. Homeowners, businesses and private contractors can play a role in keeping us all safe by taking some very simple steps.

One of the simplest is dialing three little numbers – 811 –  before you undertake any sort of digging or excavation project. Excavation projects damage an underground utility line every three minutes in the United States, creating not just service disruptions and the need for expensive repairs, but also endangering public safety. In fact, digging is the leading cause of natural gas leaks. Making the choice to call first and dig safely can be a life or death decision.

“In the last 10 years alone, excavation damage to pipelines has resulted in nearly 200 deaths and injuries,” says Christina Sames, Vice President of Operations & Engineering at AGA. “That’s a staggering number of tragedies that could have been prevented.”

“AGA believes that any incident is one incident too many,” Sames says.

Local natural gas utilities have marked August 11 as 811 Day to raise awareness about 811 and get people to make the 811 Promise. It takes just five steps to make sure you’re digging safely, and you can’t complete the last four without first calling 811:

  1. Make a free call to 811 a few days before digging.
  2. Wait the required time.
  3. Locate accurately.
  4. Respect the marks.
  5. Dig with care.

“Unless you have X-Ray vision, it’s impossible to see the underground infrastructure that carries vital resources, such as natural gas, gasoline, water and electricity,” Sames explains. “Knowing where underground utility lines are buried before you dig will help protect you from injury and prevent damages to utilities, service disruptions and potential fines and repair costs.”

Check out the Common Ground Alliance (CGA) website to learn more about 811 Day and pipeline safety.

Spreading the Word about Safety

            All sectors of the natural gas industry have made the 811 Day campaign a priority, and along with press releases and media outreach, are engaging in innovative, grassroots tactics to spread the word and educate homeowners and businesses about this crucial resource. Here are just some examples:

Pipeline Operators Develop Largest-Ever Single-Day 811 Advertising Campaign

  • A group of pipeline operators, including 11 AGA members, are engaged in a national ad campaign targeting major events and programs to air 811 ads on August 11 that is designed to reach 35 million adults nationwide.

Kansas Gas Service, OK Natural Gas, Texas Gas Service

  •  The ONEOK companies conduct a four-day Twitter campaign to spread the word to thousands of followers about pipeline safety and safe digging.

Atmos Energy Digital Campaign

  •  Atmos Energy created a series of digital media, including video clips to spread to news outlets and publish online.

 Washington Gas hosts PHMSA representatives

  • In celebration of 811 Day, Washington Gas hosted  representatives from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and facilitated exercises to demonstrate safe practices and how first responders and utility companies work side-by-side responding to a pipeline incidents.


Christina Nyquist

About Christina Nyquist

Christina Nyquist is the Communications Specialist for the American Gas Association. Prior to joining AGA, Christina served as a Writer/Editor and Public Affairs Specialist at the United States Geological Survey (USGS). Christina holds a master’s degree from the George Washington University School of Media and Public Affairs.
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