Any time you plan to dig on residential or commercial property you own, your first course of action should be to have utility lines located. This goes for small and large dig projects, and utility locating should be used whether you’re digging on private or public property. Below, we’re going to go over everything you need to know about utility locating, when it should be done, and why it’s a critical first step for any business owner.

The Difference Between Private and Public Utility Locating

Most property owners are aware of public utility lines; these include power lines, water lines, sewage lines, and some gas lines. All public utility lines are owned by utility companies, municipalities, or utility authorities in your area.

Private utility lines include all of the same utilities including propane lines for heating or cooking, natural gas lines, telephone, cable, and internet lines, irrigation, electrical lines for exterior lighting or outbuildings, and any other privately installed and maintained utilities.

Typically, private utilities begin where the public side of them end which may be a transformer, meter, water main pit, communication box, etc. After these points, the utilities coming from them will more than likely need to be marked by a private utility locating company.

When to Call Public

The federal 811 phone service is set up for any property owner to call for public utility locating. This should always be the first step before starting a dig project, especially if any part of the excavation will be on the public side of the utility service before these utilities run to the main or secondary structure(s) on the property. Public utilities can run on private property, so 811 should always be called before digging.

When to Call Private

In addition to public utility locating, private utility locating should always be performed. The 811 service will give you a general idea of where public lines are, but their records can be outdated, inaccurate, or missing, and sometimes the public utility companies contacted by 811 can’t get to the site in time to mark it before the excavation, especially in emergencies.

In addition to showing you where private utility lines are on your property, private utility locating can provide a more accurate, fully up-to-date mapping of where public and private lines are on your property.

What Can Happen if You Don’t Call Private?

Beginning a dig project without carrying out a private utility markout can be catastrophic. If public utility records are outdated or inaccurate, digging without private locating can lead to damaged utility lines. These lines can be extremely costly to repair and are potentially fatal if disrupted, as is the case with electrical and gas lines. You can also risk damaging your private lines which can be harmful, very expensive to repair, and damaging to your property.

After calling 811 and before starting your project, contact one of our highly-trained, private utility locating professionals to carry out private utility locating for you. You will create a safe environment, save time and money as well as prevent serious injury or even death.