If you're ready to dig in your yard, call 811 to locate underground lines first

Just in time for gardening season, Gov. John Kitzhaber has proclaimed April 2012 as Oregon Safe Digging Month in an effort to education homeowners and contractors about the safety hazards associated with digging near underground gas and utility lines.

Before digging this year, NW Natural officials are reminding property owners and contractors to call 811 - the Utility Notification Center - to have underground gas and utility lines located at no charge.

Damaging a gas line with a garden shovel, backhoe, trencher, post-hole digger or another tool can be a serious hazard and is the most common cause of gas line ruptures. Most recent estimates from the Common Ground Alliance (CGA), the organization behind the national Utility Notification Center, show there were 165,000 underground utility damages in the U.S. in 2010.

Line damages down

Reports from CGA estimate that the total number of damages could be reduced by 30 percent if all homeowners and contractors called 811 to help locate their utility and gas lines before digging.

'Since our education efforts started in 2006, we've seen pipeline incidents decrease by 60 percent,' said Melissa Moore, public information officer for NW Natural. 'We're encouraged by these results but know that even a single incident can create major damage, possible injury or worse.

'All it takes is a quick phone call to help keep you and your family safe.'

Property and business owners, as well as contractors, are required by law to call 811 at least two business days in advance of digging. This includes home remodeling projects to ensure that building does not take place on top of natural gas service lines, mains or other natural gas facilities.

Once the call is placed, a technician will be sent to the property to locate and mark underground utility lines at no charge to the property owner. If a utility locate has not been completed before digging, property owners are held responsible for the cost of any damages to underground utility lines and face a fine.

Smell, go, let us know

If a gas line has been accidentally damaged, remember these simple tips: smell, go, and let us know. If you smell rotten eggs from a natural gas line and/or hear a hissing sound, leave the area immediately and follow these tips:

• Do not use your telephone. This includes cellular phones and all types of portable communication and electronic devices that have a battery. These can spark and create a source of ignition.

• Do not light matches or create any other source of ignition.

• Do not operate any electrical switch - including lights - on or off. This could create a spark, which could ignite the gas.

• Open windows and doors.

• Evacuate everyone from the area.

• Call NW Natural's 24-hour emergency hotline at 1-800-882-3377 away from the leak.

Contract Publishing

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