The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Know What’s Below – Call 8-1-1 Before You Dig

Jessica  Lutz

Jessica Lutz
Posted August 3, 2018

Did you know that we’re a week away from National 8-1-1 Day? It might not sound as exciting as National Donut Day, or the recent National Emoji Day (really!), but it might just save you from a huge hassle and keep you safe the next time you plant trees or shrubs.  

National 8-1-1 Day, which takes place on August 11 each year, is a date set aside to promote awareness of underground utilities through the use of the nationwide 8-1-1 “call before you dig” process, helping to protect individuals, companies and governments from unintentionally hitting underground utility lines during digging projects. Ensuring that the approximate location of underground utility lines is clearly marked before digging reduces the risk of striking a line, which can lead to serious injuries, disrupted service to an entire community and potential fines and repair costs.

call 811

Every digging job requires a call – whether it’s a do-it-yourself project such as a deck, fence, mailbox or planting a tree, or you’re a contractor working on larger projects. While state laws vary from 48 to 72 hours in advance (most excluding weekends and legal holidays), you should call 8-1-1 at least few days before digging. You can call from anywhere in the country and be routed to a local call center where someone will take down details about the job or project. A few days later, a locator will come at no charge to mark the approximate location of underground lines, pipes and cables.

An underground utility line is damaged once every nine minutes because someone decided to dig without first calling 8-1-1, so make the call. It’s an easy yet vital step to help promote safety.

There are over 2.4 million miles of oil, natural gas and petroleum product pipelines in the U.S. — enough to circle the globe over 20 times — which is why pipeline operators rely on a number of prevention, mitigation and response techniques to safely deliver the energy we need and rely on every day – including public awareness campaigns like National 8-1-1 Day.

Pipelines are one of the safest ways to transport natural gas and oil, delivering over 99.99% of energy products safely to their destination. As you may expect, the natural gas and oil industry does a bit of digging and has strong standards and recommended practices in place to verify “what’s below” before breaking ground. To give you an idea of how important it is to be prepared before digging, below are just a few of these industry standards:

API RP 1166 – Excavation Monitoring and Observation:

To protect the public, excavation employees and the environment, preventing damage to pipeline assets from excavation activities is imperative. This standard provides a consistently applied decision-making process for monitoring and observing excavation and other activities on or near pipeline rights-of-way. Items covered under this standard include things to consider when evaluating the type of work and proximity of work to the pipeline, and various items to pay attention to when near a pipeline.

API RP 1109 - Line Markers and Signage for Hazardous Liquid Pipelines and Facilities

Similar to the informative flags placed in residential yards or on worksites after calling 8-1-1, industry has strict standards for the permanent marking of liquid petroleum pipeline transportation facilities. This standard covers the design, message, installation, placement, inspection and maintenance of markers and signs on pipeline facilities located onshore and at inland waterway crossings. Markers and signs indicate the presence of a pipeline facility and warn of the potential hazards associated with its presence and operation. The markers and signs contain information to be used by the public when reporting emergencies, such as the name of the pipeline operator and an emergency number, or when seeking assistance in determining the precise location of a buried pipeline. 

API RP 1102 – Steel Pipeline Crossing Railroads and Highways

This recommended practice covers the design, installation, inspection and testing required to promote safe crossings of steel pipelines under railroads and highways and gives primary emphasis to provisions for public safety. The provisions apply to the design and construction of welded steel pipelines under railroads and highways and are formulated to protect the facility crossed by the pipeline, as well as to provide an adequate design for safe installation and operation of the pipeline. 


Jessica Lutz is a writer for the American Petroleum Institute. Jessica joined API after 10+ years leading the in-house marketing and communications for non-profits and trade associations. A Michigan native, Jessica graduated from The University of Michigan with degrees in Communications and Political Science. She resides in Washington, D.C., and spends most of her free time trying to keep up with her energetic Giant Schnauzer, Jackson.