The dangers of “dig-ins” – buried treasure becomes buried trouble if you rupture a natural gas line

A Peoples Gas team member plants a marker showing where a natural gas line is buried.

A Peoples Gas team member plants a marker showing where a natural gas line is buried.

You don’t have to dig deep, from a literal standpoint, to find a huge potential hazard nearby: All it takes is a shovel and a natural gas pipeline buried right beneath you.

Some call them “dig-ins,” and if you create one by breaching a pipeline, a lot of people will know about it – thanks to the resulting outages, the crisis response and, worst of all, the possibility of harm to yourself and those around you.

There two similar numbers related to dig-ins that you should know about:

811: This is the most important number to remember. Dial it on your telephone at least two business days before you dig to schedule a free visit to your property by experts who will locate and mark natural gas lines – as well as buried infrastructure used by other companies.

835: That’s the average number of dig-ins TECO Peoples Gas has experienced each year over the past five years throughout Florida.

A closer look at an underground gas line marker.

A closer look at an underground gas line marker.

“The biggest percentage of instances where Peoples Gas equipment or infrastructure has been damaged – 48 percent in 2014 – is due to the failure to call 811 before digging,” said Sandra Panos, supervisor of Damage Prevention & Recovery with Peoples Gas. “According to the Common Ground Alliance, when people submit requests to locate gas lines by calling 811, the likelihood of causing a dig-in drops to 1 percent. Utilities will mark their facilities for free within just two full business days.”

Panos said dig-ins happen with both hand tools and mechanized equipment, which the most common being a backhoe. Consequences can include an explosion or fire.

In addition to making sure you call 811, review this guidance on the Peoples Gas website about how to spot a buried gas line, what to do if you smell leaking gas, and other safety-related issues.

If you smell gas, evacuate the area and immediately call People Gas from a safe distance at 1-877-832-6747. If the smell of gas is strong, call 911.

Panos said while Peoples Gas team members are committed to Safety First above all else, the company needs the help of everyone in the community when it comes to safety with what lies below ground.

“The bottom line,” she said, “is there’s simply no reason to not call 811 before you dig.”


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