Team focuses on 811 dialing before digging

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 29, 2009

NATCHEZ — Call 911 for emergenices — 811 is for digging.

To spread that message and to raise public awareness on the importance of checking for underground utilities before excavating earth, the Natchez Damage Prevention Team was born.

The team’s main focus will be to educate the public on the importance of dialing 811 to check for buried utility lines before any excavation work is done, said team president, and local Atmos Manager, Andrew Calvit.

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Calvit said individuals or businesses digging for any kind of project are legally obligated to dial 811 before starting work.

“If it’s a company putting in a new sewer line or a guy putting in fencepost, or a flowerbed, they have to call,” Calvit said. “It’s so easy, there’s no reason not to call.”

Once notified of a proposed excavation site, 811 representatives contact local utility providers who then go to the location to mark their utility lines.

“It’s so simple to just make the call,” Calvit said. “And it can save so many problems down the road.”

Calvit said whether it’s a resident or company doing the digging, a broken utility line can create a dangerous situation and create an inconvenient situation for thousands of people.

“They can take out the phones or create a gas leak,” Calvit said.

Calvit said once 811 is notified they also provide the caller with a code specific to his or her request.

In the event of a ruptured line, if the excavator is not able to provide that code, because they did not call 811, that person, or business, is liable for the damages and cost of repairs, Calvit said.

Disaster team vice president, and Entergy Operations Coordinator, Mark Jones said those repairs can be expensive.

Jones said the cost to repair some of Entergy’s lines can exceed $20,000.

And Jones said locally those who excavate land before calling 811 have created problems in the past.

“It can be a pretty big problem,” he said.

Jones said many of the broken utility lines don’t come from private residents or large companies.

“Mostly it’s small businesses that are not in the loop,” Jones said. “They don’t know they’re supposed to call.”

Calvit said those planning excavation projects should notify 811 at least two days prior to digging.

“There’s a lot more down there than just dirt,” Calvit said.