Ok, you’ve taken the first step in your outdoor project by calling 811 to get utility lines marked. Good job. This step is important to keep you, your family, and your neighborhood safe and the electricity, gas, cable and water flowing to everyone.
What to Expect Next
Locate crews from utility companies now know you plan to dig and will be dispatched to mark hidden underground utility lines on your property. To assist the utility company, you may mark the area of excavation with white paint or flags. Most locate crews will arrive within a few business days — weather permitting. 811 offers the call/dispatch timeline at right.
What Does Not Get Marked
Some underground lines may not be owned by the utilities. These are considered private facilities and they will not be marked by public utilities. These include heating systems for pools, electricity for outbuildings, invisible fences, septic systems, sprinkler systems, and satellite dishes. If you think you may have private facilities, you should contact and hire a private utility locator to identify and locate them or contact the utility to inquire whether they will perform a locate for you.
Respect the Marks
The American Public Works Administration (APWA) created the Uniform Color Code system for marking underground utilities. The utility companies use colored flags or paint to indicate the approximate location of their underground utilities (see graphic below). The standard APWA color codes for marking underground facilities:
- Red – electric power lines, cables, conduit and lighting cables.
- Yellow – gas, oil, steam, petroleum or gaseous material.
- Orange – communication, alarm or signal lines, cables or conduit.
- Blue – potable water.
- Green – sewers and drain lines.
- White – proposed excavation limits or route.
- Pink – temporary survey markings, unknown or unidentified facilities.
- Purple – reclaimed water, irrigation and slurry lines.
Once Facilities are Marked
The paint and flags placed by the utility company indicate the approximate location of their facilities, which may be anywhere in a 2-foot (24-inch) tolerance zone on either side of the line of paint or flags.
Once you begin digging for your project, avoid using axes, hand or powered posthole diggers, picks, mattocks, pry/probing bars or mechanized equipment, as these often result in damage. Use only rounded or blunt-edge tools, keeping the face of the shovel/tool parallel with the utility line markings. Never dig directly on the marked line, but rather on either side at a distance of at least 2 feet from the marking.
Always keep in mind that over time, erosion or plant root growth can shift the locations of utility lines so call 811 each time you plan a digging project.