You might have seen a logo with the numbers “811” and a shovel around town, on vehicles, or even received a brochure from your local pipeline or utility company and wondered what is “811” and how does it effect you? 811 is the national toll-free telephone number to call before any digging project in order to prevent damage to underground utilities.

Each of the last four years, the pipeline industry has collaborated to host National 811 day on August 11 or 8/11. What started out as a small media effort to bring awareness to the “Call Before You Dig” campaign has grown into a successful national media effort. Ads were viewed on NBC, CBS, ESPN, ESPN 2, and FoxSports Network and could be heard on Texas Rangers Baseball Radio Network and KBME. The industry also sponsored multiple activities related to the day.

Pipeline statistics released by the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration reveal that one of the leading causes of pipeline incidents are caused by excavation activities. Further, the majority of excavation incidents are caused by third party damage. While the percentage and number of incidents related to excavation are decreasing, most of these incidents are preventable by making a simple phone call and taking simple safety precautions when excavating.

According to the Railroad Commission of Texas, there are more than 370,000 miles of pipelines in Texas. Over the last three years, the number of pipeline miles in Texas has increased and with the advances in shale plays, that number will continue to do so. And, if you have natural gas, water or other utilities at your home, you have underground facilities on your property

Once you have identified any digging project, including working in your flowerbed or building a new fence, call 811 at least two days in advance. When you call 811, a representative of the underground facility will come to your property and locate all buried utilities to prevent causing damage. Even more importantly, if you damage a pipeline during excavation, even if it only results in a scratch to the coating or a small dent, contact the pipeline operator immediately. Unreported damage to a pipeline can result in integrity issues years later.

Remember— it is everyone’s responsibility to protect the integrity of our underground facilities and the safety of you and those around you by calling 811 before excavating. Know what’s below. Call before you dig.

For specific information on pipelines in your area, visit www.rrc.state.tx.us/programs/damageprevention. For more information on the national “Call 811” campaign, visit www.call811.com.