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Call 811 before you start digging

April is National Safe Digging Month, and a good time to remember that you or your contractor must call 811 to have underground utility lines located two business days before digging.

The most common cause of damages to a natural gas line is someone accidentally digging into it, according to officials at NW Natural.

Whether it’s been hit by a garden shovel, backhoe, trencher, post-hole digger or other tool, a damaged line can be a serious safety hazard and lead to unwanted fines.

“We know that it only takes one accident to create major damage, service disruptions and possible injuries,” said Scott Gallegos, NW Natural damage prevention supervisor. “That’s why it’s important for everyone to remember to make that one quick phone call to 811 before any digging occurs.”

The company recorded a “slight increase” in the number of damage incidents in 2013 over 2012, Gallegos said.

“Responding to more calls for locates is a step in the right direction,” said Gallegos. “But we still have a long way to go to see the number of damages go from 500-plus per year down to zero.”

If a gas line has been accidentally damaged, “remember these simple tips,” Gallegos added. “Smell. Go. Let us know.”

If you smell an odor like rotten eggs from a natural gas line and/or hear a hissing sound, immediately leave the area on foot and follow these tips:

Do not use your telephone, cell phone or any electronic or battery-powered device.

Do not light matches.

Do not operate any electrical switch including lights.

Do not create any other source of ignition or spark that could ignite the gas.

Evacuate the area on foot.

Call NW Natural’s 24-hour emergency hotline at 1-800-882-3377 once you’re away.

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