Planning a Project that Involves Digging? Call 811 to Know What's Below Before You Start


Damaging an underground utility line while digging can result in 
thousands of dollars in repair costs

SAN FRANCISCO, April 1, 2024 /PRNewswire/ -- With the arrival of warmer weather months, homeowners may turn their attention to projects around the home that involve digging. Whether it is repairing a fence or removing a downed tree due to winter storm damage, or any other project that involves digging, calling 811 before starting your project will help customers avoid damaging underground utility lines and prevent expensive repair costs. April is recognized as National Safe Digging Month to spread awareness of the importance of calling 811 before any digging project, large or small.

Underground utility lines can be shallow, sometimes only a few inches below the surface, due to erosion, previous digging projects or landscaping, shifting or settling of the ground and uneven surfaces. Customers should call 811 a minimum of two business days before starting any digging project, large or small, as damaging an underground utility line while digging is dangerous and can leave customers responsible for repair costs averaging $3,500.

"Making a free call to 811 two business days before you start your digging project will help keep you, your family and neighbors safe and avoid inconvenient outages. Striking an underground utility line while digging can be dangerous and lead to expensive repairs, so please remember to call 811, one free call for all digging projects, large or small," said Joe Forline, PG&E senior vice president, gas operations.

Warmer weather months see an increase in digging projects, and unfortunately many of those projects are proceeding without a free call to 811 to have underground utilities marked for project sites. In fact, according to a recent national survey conducted by the Common Ground Alliance (CGA), 56% of homeowners plan to dig without calling 811 first. But, failure to call 811 before digging resulted in nearly 1,300 incidents during 2023 where underground utility lines were damaged due to digging in PG&E's service area alone.

2023 by the numbers:

  • There were 1,262 incidents in Northern and Central California where homeowners or contractors damaged underground gas or electric lines while digging
  • In 63 percent of incidents when an underground utility line was damaged due to digging, 811 was not called.
  • For homeowners specifically, that percentage rises to 90 percent
  • The average cost to repair a damaged utility line is $3,500
  • Leading causes of damages to underground utility lines while digging include: building or replacing a fence, gardening and landscaping, planting a tree or removing a stump, sewer and irrigation work and building a deck or patio

Calling 811 is Fast and Free:

  • Customers should call 811 a minimum of two business days before beginning any project that involves digging, no matter how large or small. Customers can also visit to have underground utility lines marked for their project site.
  • Professional utility workers for all utilities (gas, electric, water, sewer and telecommunications) will be dispatched to mark the location of all underground utility lines for the project site with flags, spray paint, or both
  • The 811 call center serving Central and Northern California, USA North, is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and will provide Spanish and other translation services.

PG&E safe digging tips

  • Mark project area in white: Identify the digging location by drawing a box around the area using white paint, white stakes, white flags, white chalk or even white baking flour.
  • Call 811 or submit an online request a minimum of two working days before digging: Be prepared to provide the address and general location of the project, project start date and type of digging activity. PG&E and other utilities will identify underground facilities in the area for free. Requests can be submitted a maximum of 14 days prior to the start of the project.
  • Dig safely: Use hand tools when digging within 24 inches of the outside edge of underground lines. Leave utility flags, stakes or paint marks in place until the project is finished. Backfill and compact the soil.
  • Be aware of signs of a natural gas leak: Smell for a "rotten egg" odor, listen for hissing, whistling or roaring sounds and look for dirt spraying into the air, bubbling in a pond or creek and dead/dying vegetation in an otherwise moist area.

About CGA  
CGA is a member-driven association of nearly 4,200 damage prevention professionals spanning every facet of the underground utility industry. Established in 2000, CGA is committed to saving lives and preventing damage to North American underground infrastructure by promoting effective damage prevention practices. CGA has established itself as the preeminent source of damage prevention data and information in an effort to reduce damages to underground facilities in North America through shared responsibility among all stakeholders. For more information, visit CGA on the web at

About PG&E
Pacific Gas and Electric Company, a subsidiary of PG&E Corporation (NYSE:PCG), is a combined natural gas and electric utility serving more than 16 million people across 70,000 square miles in Northern and Central California. For more information, visit and

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SOURCE Pacific Gas and Electric Company


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