What is 811 Phone Number? A Complete Guide to Safety and Damage Prevention

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As homeowners or contractors, we know the importance of digging safely and avoiding damage to underground utilities. But how do we ensure we don’t accidentally hit a gas line, water pipe, or electrical wire? The answer lies in calling the 811 phone number before we dig.

In this complete guide to the 811 phone number, I’ll explain what it is, why it’s important to call before digging, and provide a brief history of the service. By the end of this article, you’ll understand the risks associated with digging without calling 811, the benefits of using the service, and how to call to ensure safety and damage prevention. Let’s get started!

Why Is It Important to Call 811?

Risks Associated with Digging Without Calling 811

Digging without calling 811 could lead to potential hazards, including damaging underground utility lines, causing power outages, gas leaks, and water contamination. It could also lead to injury or death, resulting from explosions, electrocutions, or falls.

Examples of Potential Damage Caused by Not Calling 811

In 2020, a contractor in Virginia caused a gas leak explosion that injured several people, destroyed several homes, and cost millions of dollars in damages. In another instance, a homeowner in Colorado hit a gas line, causing an explosion that destroyed the home, leaving one person injured.

Safety Precautions for Homeowners and Contractors

Homeowners and contractors can take precautions to avoid damage and injury, including knowing the location of underground utilities, calling 811 before digging, waiting for the utilities to be marked, and digging carefully around the marked areas. It’s also essential to avoid using heavy machinery or power equipment near underground utilities and to follow safety protocols provided by the utility companies.

How to Call 811

Digging safely starts with a simple phone call to the 811 service. Here’s a step-by-step guide to calling 811:

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Step 1: Plan Ahead

Before calling, be sure to plan ahead and gather information about the location and scope of your digging project. This includes the address and nearest cross-street, type of work being done, and the extent of the digging area.

Step 2: Call 811

Dial 811 from anywhere in the United States, and you’ll be redirected to your local 811 center. You can also visit the 811 website to submit a request online. Be sure to call at least two to three business days before you plan to dig to allow time for utility companies to mark underground lines.

Step 3: Provide Information

When you call, the operator will ask for specific information about your digging project. This includes the address of the dig site, the type of work being done, and the extent of the digging area. You’ll also need to provide a contact phone number and email address for any follow-up questions.

Step 4: Wait for Utility Markings

After calling, utility companies will be notified of your digging project and will send personnel to mark the approximate location of their underground utility lines with paint, flags, or stakes. Wait for these markings before beginning any excavation work.

By following these steps and calling 811, you’ll help ensure a safe and successful digging project while avoiding the risks associated with damage to underground utilities.

Benefits of Calling 811

Calling the 811 phone number before you dig provides several benefits for homeowners and contractors alike. Here are some of the advantages of using this service:

Explanation of the Benefits of Calling Before Digging

  1. Safety: Calling 811 before you dig ensures your safety and the safety of anyone who may come into contact with the underground utilities. Digging without calling 811 can result in severe injury or even death.
  2. Damage Prevention: Calling 811 helps to prevent damage to underground utilities. This can save you time, money, and stress associated with repairing damages caused by digging.
  3. Legal Compliance: In many states, it is the law to call 811 before you dig. Failing to call can result in legal penalties.
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Overview of the Services Provided by the 811 System

When you call 811, you’ll be connected to your state’s One Call Center. This center will coordinate with the appropriate utility companies to mark the location of any underground utilities on your property. This service is free of charge and helps to ensure safety and damage prevention.

How to Access Additional Resources and Information

In addition to calling 811, there are additional resources available to help you dig safely. These resources include online tutorials, safety videos, and educational materials. By accessing these resources, you can ensure that you’re taking all the necessary precautions to dig safely and avoid damage to underground utilities.

Common Questions and Misconceptions

FAQ Section Addressing Common Questions About 811

  1. What is the 811 phone number?
    The 811 phone number is a free, national service that homeowners and contractors can call before digging to ensure safety and avoid damage to underground utilities.

  2. Do I have to call 811 every time I dig?
    Yes, it’s important to call 811 every time you dig, regardless of the size or depth of the project. Even small projects like planting a tree or installing a mailbox can cause damage to underground utilities.

  3. How far in advance should I call before digging?
    You should call at least two business days before digging. This will give the utility companies enough time to mark their underground lines.

  4. What if I hit a utility line while digging?
    Stop digging immediately and call 911 if there is an emergency. If there is no emergency, call the utility company whose line you hit. They will assess the damage and make any necessary repairs.

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Addressing Misconceptions About Calling 811

Myth: Calling 811 is a waste of time and delays the project.
Fact: Calling 811 actually saves time and money by preventing damage to underground utilities, which can cause costly repairs and project delays.

Myth: I don’t need to call 811 if I know where the utility lines are.
Fact: Even if you know where the utility lines are, it’s still important to call 811. The utility companies can provide additional information and mark the lines to ensure safety.

Myth: Calling 811 is only necessary for big construction projects.
Fact: It’s important to call 811 every time you dig, regardless of the size or depth of the project. Even small projects like planting a tree or installing a mailbox can cause damage to underground utilities.

Additional Resources for Further Information

For more information about the 811 phone number and safe digging practices, visit the following resources:

  • www.call811.com
  • www.safekids.org/safetytips/field-type/outdoor-play-safety/811-call-you-dig
  • www.osha.gov/dte/grant_materials/fy07/sh-16586-07/811poster.pdf


In conclusion, calling the 811 phone number before digging may seem like a small step, but it can have a significant impact on safety and damage prevention. By taking a few minutes to call before digging, you can avoid costly and potentially deadly accidents.

We’ve covered the importance of calling 811, how to call, and the benefits of using the service. Remember, it’s not just homeowners who should call before digging. Contractors, landscapers, and anyone involved in excavation work should also use the service to ensure safety and avoid damage to underground utilities.

In the end, it’s better to be safe than sorry. So next time you plan to dig, make sure to call 811 and enjoy a peace of mind knowing you’re protecting yourself, your property, and your community.

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