Today’s date of eight-eleven is being used as a reminder to call the free 8-1-1 hotline before doing any digging. Pete Vielhaber is a spokesman for the group Common Ground Iowa, which works to protect underground utility lines and the safety of the people who dig near them.

No matter what the size of the digging project, Vielhaber says they all warrant calling 8-1-1 at least two business days before starting work. That includes homeowners and professional excavators and projects ranging from digging a hole for a mailbox to cutting in a new road. Besides, he says, it’s the law in Iowa.

After making the call, utility companies will mark the location of where their lines are buried with colored flags or spray paint.

“Hitting a buried utility can have a lot of negative repercussions,” Vielhaber says. “If you hit a buried power line or gas line, there’s a great potential for severe injury.”

Not only could you end up badly hurt, he says there’s also the risk of facing a hefty fine if you cut a cable or pipe.Vielhaber says, “With any utility, no matter whether that’s a telephone line, a gas line or cable TV, there’s obviously repair costs involved and if emergency services are called out, like if a gas main is hit, there’s even more costs.”

Across Iowa, an average of six buried utility lines are damaged and reported to Iowa One Call each day. For more information, visit: “