A Northern Michigan man escaped serious injury earlier this summer when the post hole digger he was using sliced into a buried, 72-hundred-volt primary electric cable in his back yard. The electric current burned a hole the size of a golf ball in the end of his tool, blackened both of its handles, gave him flash burns on his arms and face, blew the cover off an outside TV cable box, and started a grass fire. 

It could have been worse. There was a secondary electric cable under the primary cable that could have been energized after the initial outage, and the homeowner missed striking the natural gas service line to his house by less than four inches! He did not contact MISS DIG before digging. Unfortunately, that’s not unusual.

Every nine minutes an underground utility line is damaged in the U.S. because someone neglected to call MISS DIG at 8-1-1 before digging. The DTE Energy natural gas team in Tawas responded to two such incidents in June. One involved a road crew that was replacing an old street sign with a new one, using the exact location. Either the new sign was placed slightly off center or it was driven deeper into the ground, because the crew hit a gas main. Fortunately, Tawas employees made repairs without impacting service to any customers.

The second incident involved a tent company that was putting up a tent at a water treatment plant when a worker drove a stake into a natural gas service line. All three incidents likely could have been avoided had MISS DIG been contacted beforehand. Data shows that when a request is made to mark buried utilities, the probability of an underground line being damaged is less than one percent.

Either call 8-1-1 or visit missdig811.org to place your request. It won’t cost you a dime. They’ll arrange for a crew to locate and mark buried utility lines in your work area. Be sure to make your request at least three business days before digging or staking and wait until the area is marked. Using MISS DIG is safe, free, and it’s the law. Damaging a buried utility line could result in injuries, damage, loss of service and a fine. Why take the risk when you can nearly eliminate the chance for free? Make the right call and dig safely.

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