In the United States, homeowners are required to call 811 before doing any digging in their yards. After notifying 811 of the digging project, they should contact the local utilities companies to locate and mark all of the buried utility lines on the property.
When calling 811, the customers call is rerouted to the local state one call facility. The operator then asks a variety of questions about the digging project, and then contacts any local affected utility company that may have facilities located in the area of the dig. The utility companies usually should visit the property within two to three days to mark the location of all underground utilities.
Customers must call 811 at least a few days before they plan to begin digging, although each state has specific requirements on exactly how much notice must be given before the dig. Some states also allow customers to make an online utility location request.
Calling 811 is required no matter how small the digging project is, even if only installing a new mailbox or digging a small garden. This is true even if a utility locate was performed previously, as erosion and the growth of plant roots may have caused the lines to shift. It may also be that the utility company has moved the lines since the last locate was performed.
If only a small area of the yard is going to be dug, mark out the area using white flags or white marking paint. In this case, the utility companies should only locate and mark any underground utility lines within the marked area.