Today marks the last day of National Safe Digging Month. All April long, throughout the nation, local natural gas utilities have taken creative steps to spread the word about safe excavation practices. Damage from construction and digging activity is the leading cause of pipeline incidents, so communicating with customers and communities about the importance of calling 811 before starting any digging project is essential to enhancing public safety. Efforts surrounding safe digging have contributed to a nearly 50 percent decline in excavation damages to underground facilities since 2004. Here are just a few of the ways AGA member companies raised awareness about safe digging in their local communities.
North Carolina-based Piedmont Natural Gas teamed with garden centers in North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee to tag trees and shrubs with reminders to “Call Before You Dig.” Piedmont Natural Gas Managing Director of Safety and Community Relations Timothy Greenhouse explained, “We know people are eager to get started on gardening and landscaping projects after the long winter we’ve had, but calling 811 is a free, easy way to avoid the inconvenience, added cost and potential injury that can result from damaging underground utilities.” At the Gardens of Blackhawk Hardware in Charlotte, N.C., Girl Scouts from the local Hornets Nest Council worked with garden center employees to make sure every customer buying a tree, shrub or bush or digging tool received a “Call Before You Dig” tag.
Piedmont Natural Gas employees demonstrate safe digging practices with local Girl Scouts at National Safe Digging Month awareness event. Credit: Piedmont Natural Gas
Atmos Energy, headquartered in Dallas, Tex., engaged social media to launch its “iDig It” campaign. The utility offered participants the chance to win $811 by snapping and submitting photos of clearly marked digging sites in their communities and sharing them on Facebook or Twitter using the hashtag #iDigIt. Atmos also released a new 811 awareness video at the end of March.
In Fresno, Calif., Pacific Gas and Electric Corporation joined the Fresno City Council, the Fresno Fire Department and the Mayor of Madera for a safe digging awareness rally, where participants wrapped 100 stickers around trees that were given away to anyone who pledged to call 811 before digging. In addition to spreading safety awareness, the event added 100 new trees to the city’s landscape. PG&E also hosted weekly safety events at Home Depot stores throughout its service territory throughout the month, where PG&E employees spoke with shoppers about the importance of safe digging. Attendees and their children also played safety games and observed some of the innovative tools PG&E is using to supply customers with safe and reliable gas and electricity.
PG&E’s Dan Kalendar, left, and Joe Sutton demonstrated the interactive gas safety board for customers at a Home Depot Safe Digging Awareness event. Credit: PG&E
The team here at AGA developed and released a “Kids and Natural Gas Safety” video designed to appeal to younger audiences to help educate them about all aspects of living with natural gas.
Many other natural gas utilities throughout the nation spread awareness about National Safe Digging Month through news releases, social media, advertisements, community events and more. Safety is the top priority for AGA and its member companies. Along with the industry’s dedicated efforts to enhance the safety of its systems, growing public awareness about natural gas safety is an essential part of helping to ensure Americans can enjoy the benefits of domestic, abundant natural gas for decades to come.