SOUTH MISSISSIPPI (WLOX) - If you skip an important step before starting your next project, there could be major consequences. Recent events have revealed the importance of calling before you dig.
A gas leak evacuated a Long Beach elementary school weeks after an accident ended with a man being electrocuted at the Scranton Nature Center in Pascagoula. The Mississippi 811 program wants to prevent these kind of incidents.
From simple projects in the yard at home to commercial sites, if it requires digging, Mississippi 811 wants to be a part of your plans.
"Whether it's gas, power, water, sewer, telecommunications, all of those things have to be located prior to digging," said Charles Stallings.
According to Stallings, state law requires that you call at least two days before you dig with mechanized equipment, but he suggests you call even if you're going to be using a shovel.
Once you dial 811, you'll be asked about your project and where you're located.
"Once we get all of that information in, we'll transfer that data based on our maps and we'll send a message to each affected utility company," said Stallings.
That's when contractors, like the United States Infrastructure Corporation, send crews out to mark the underground utilities. Locators, like Earnest Swanner, spray paint a series of marks to show where the lines are with temporary, water-based paint.
Swanner says ignoring the markings could be serious.
"If that power line gets hit, it could potentially kill somebody or knock the power out to their home," said Swanner.
Stallings said that's the kind of incident that he and his team want to prevent. Haphazard digs could also result in gas leaks or a loss in communication.
"Can you imagine if you cut off all the phone service and there's no 911 service," said Stallings.
The color of the markings indicate the type of utility; red for electric, yellow for gas, orange for communication among several others.
Stallings says digs need to stay at least 18 inches away from the markings.
"Everything we do is about safety," he said.
That's why Mississippi 811 wants you to call before you dig. To find out more about Mississippi 811's free services and programs, just visit http://ms1call.org/.