While August is the hottest month in Florida and also falls smack dab in the middle of hurricane season, residents are very active with outdoor and home improvement projects – whether that’s adding landscaping, cutting back or removing trees before or after a storm, or installing a mailbox, fence or deck. August 11 is 811 Day, and Sunshine 811 offers homeowners and professional contractors some reminders about safe digging, as well as tips to avoid dangers with yard and outdoor projects. Residents can even download a free 811 Day Toolkit for more information.  

“Landscaping and fencing are among the most popular yard spruce-up activities this time of year, but combined, they cause the most damage to underground utility lines – some of which are very shallow, while others can end up being entangled with roots,” said Mark Sweet, Sunshine 811’s executive director. “Hitting a power, telecom or gas line can result in fines, service interruptions, street evacuations, injuries or even worse. That’s why contacting 811 before you dig is the law, and nationwide, the majority of damage occurs from not contacting 811.”  

Sweet adds that the work of Sunshine 811 is all about ensuring public safety and preventing damage to underground infrastructure. When 811 is contacted, the organization alerts member utilities of a project so utility lines can be identified and marked first before digging. 

811 can be accessed by dialing those numbers directly on your phone or by visiting Sunshine811.com and clicking on “Create a Ticket.” Sunshine 811 is also Florida’s go-to resource for education on the safe digging process. The organization’s online Learning Center offers in-depth information, resources and videos on a variety of topics, including: safe planting tips, hurricane storm prep and after-storm clean-up reminders, damage prevention and more. Sunshine 811 encourages homeowners and contractors to follow these six fundamental steps for safe digging:

    1. Plan your project – Think about the scope and if you’ll need to hire a contractor. Gather specific information about your digging project such as the street address, type of project and timeline for the work. 
    2. Contact 811 – You’ll receive a ticket number and list of utilities that will be notified of your project. Remember that utility companies do not mark private lines. 
    3. Wait the required time – After you submit a ticket, member utility operators have two full business days to clear or mark the approximate location of underground utility lines on your property before you can begin digging.
    4. Confirm utility responses – Follow the progress of each member utility by viewing the utility response codes they use to explain your dig site
    5. Confirm the marks – Ensure that all member utility companies have responded to your ticket. Compare the colors of the marks and flags on your property to the list of member utility companies on your ticket.
    6. Dig with care – Now that the buried utility lines on your property have been marked or cleared, it’s time to start digging! According to Florida law, there is a tolerance zone that runs 24 inches from each facility’s outside edges. If you’re digging within the tolerance zone, use increased precautions to protect the underground utility lines. Also, keep an eye out for roots and stumps that could be entangled with utility lines. If you damage a utility line, contact the utility company immediately and do not attempt to fix it.

For more information about safe digging and the 811 process, visit Sunshine811.com.