NAPERVILLE, Ill. — Aug. 11, 2020— Since the beginning of March when millions of Americans began to shelter in place due to the impacts of the coronavirus (COVID-19), the number of outdoor home improvement projects has increased across the country and in Illinois. Whether planting a tree or installing a new mailbox or fence, knowing the location of buried utilities help prevent property damage, inconvenient service outages and most importantly, personal injuries.
With the approach of Aug. 11, Nicor Gas reminds customers across the region that the date, 8/11, serves as an important reminder to always call 811 or click before starting any outdoor digging project.
“On Aug. 11 and throughout the year, we remind homeowners and professional contractors alike to call 811 before digging to eliminate the risk of striking any underground utilities,” said Emeka Igwilo, chief data officer and vice president of Operations Support for Southern Company Gas, the parent company of Nicor Gas. “Safe digging helps keep communities safe.”
No matter if you are a homeowner with a shovel or a professional excavator with an earthmover, state law requires a call to 811 before starting any digging project.
According to Common Ground Alliance, a national advocacy organization focused on preventing damage to underground infrastructure, there are nearly 20 million miles of underground utility lines in the U.S. This critical infrastructure such as natural gas lines, electric, water, sewer or fiber optic cable, is damaged once every few minutes because someone makes the mistake of digging without first calling 811.
A free call made to 811 connects to JULIE (Joint Utility Locating Information for Excavators), which notifies the appropriate utility companies of the intent to dig. Professional locators are then sent free of charge to the requested digging site to mark the approximate locations of underground lines with flags and/or spray paint. If Nicor Gas has natural gas pipelines in the area, their approximate location will be marked with yellow paint and/or flags. Once all lines have been marked, it is important that residents and excavators respect the marks and use the appropriate tools to dig with care according to legal, safe digging practices.
“Contractors and homeowners do not have to be present when utility lines are marked, nor converse with the workers to show where to make the locate marks. This provides both peace of mind with the current social distancing guidelines and for completing the project safely,” said Brad Roulo, manager of Asset Protection for Nicor Gas.
Nicor Gas encourages homeowners and contractors to follow the below safe digging guidelines and always dig with CARE:
Call or click before you dig – when starting an outdoor digging project, customers are advised to dial 811 or visit illinois1call.com to request to have underground utility lines marked at least three days in advance. Requests to have utility operators mark underground lines, including natural gas, electric, water, sewer, telephone and cable lines, can be made 24-hours a day, seven days a week and is a free service.
Allow the required time for marking – after contacting JULIE, wait the required time to have underground utility lines marked before digging. The approximate location of underground utility lines will be marked with color-coded spray paint, flags or stakes that correspond to the utility. The color used for natural gas is yellow.
Respect the marks – only use hand digging tools to carefully uncover the area around a utility line when you need to dig close by.
Excavate carefully – make sure the marks remain visible during the project. If the lines are damaged or removed, customers are encouraged to contact JULIE to have lines remarked.
During these times of uncertainty, we remain committed to doing our part to protect customers’ healthy and safety while ensuring the safe and reliable delivery of natural gas. We encourage Illinois residents to join us in our efforts to protect underground utilities – call 811 or click illinois1call.com before digging to help prevent injuries and property damage that may result in service outages.
If a natural gas line is damaged accidentally or the distinctive rotten-egg odor associated with natural gas is present, call 911 or the Nicor Gas 24-hour emergency phone line at 1.888.Nicor.4u (642.6748) from a safe location. Do not operate any machinery or equipment that might cause a spark or create an open flame.
For more information about natural gas safety, visit nicorgas.com/safety/call-811-before-you-dig.html.
To help children learn more about underground utilities, visit the Safe Digging Arcade for fun, interactive games. Complete all eight activities to become a Safe Digging champion!
About Nicor Gas
Nicor Gas is one of four natural gas distribution companies of Southern Company Gas, a wholly owned subsidiary of Southern Company (NYSE: SO). Nicor Gas serves more than 2.2 million customers in a service territory that encompasses most of the northern third of Illinois, excluding the city of Chicago. For more information, nicorgas.com.
About Southern Company Gas
Southern Company Gas is a wholly owned subsidiary of Atlanta-based Southern Company (NYSE: SO), America’s premier energy company. Southern Company Gas serves approximately 4.6 million natural gas utility customers through its regulated distribution companies in seven states and more than 1 million retail customers through its companies that market natural gas and related home services. Other nonutility businesses include investments in interstate pipelines, asset management for natural gas wholesale customers and ownership and operation of natural gas storage facilities. For more information, visit southerncompanygas.com.
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