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Spring Planting Safety

Article by:  Wallace Jones

Don’t look now, but Spring is quickly creeping up on us!  And what comes to mind when we think of spring?  We want to plant those beautiful flowers, shrubs, and trees around our house to help beautify our landscape.  So, we just go out and start digging.  Right?  Wrong!

The first thing we do is make a phone call to the Alabama 811 office and request a locate ticket to have all the underground utilities located on our property.  Since the Alabama Legislature amended the state’s damage prevention law in 2019, all utilities must now belong to a one-call center.  In Alabama that is the Alabama 811 Center (  You can either dial 811 and give the customer service representative the necessary information (address, contact phone number, closest intersecting street, what type of work will be done, etc.) or go to the website and enter the locate request yourself.  After 48 hours, beginning with the next business day, the utilities should arrive and locate the underground utilities in your work zone so you can know what is buried and what you need to be aware of.  They will locate any underground utilities from the main line (gas main, electric cable, TV/Telephone cable, water main) to the meter serving your location.  (Sorry, but that does not include most of your water lines.  The lines from your meter to your house are your property, not the utility’s so that part will not be marked.  And neither will any lines coming off your meter to other areas of the property, such as a gas line to a grill or gas light, an electric cable from the meter to another building on the property.)

What about the lines they do mark?  There is an area called a “tolerance zone” that extends 18” either side of the marks/flags that are put down to locate the utility.  You are not allowed to use any mechanized equipment within that zone.  All digging in that area must be by hand.  And you must use every precaution to avoid damage.  Don’t take a pickaxe and swing it as hard as you can into the ground.  Use a shovel and gently excavate within the zone until you have located the utility and can determine its depth.  If you do damage any facility, immediately call 811 and let them know about the damage, and if you know which utility it is, call them to report the damage also.

The main thing about calling 811 to have the lines on your property located is safety.  You do not want to have a broken gas line or water line spewing its product all over your property.  And you certainly don’t want the “shocking” result of cutting into an electrical cable.  So be safe; call 811 and have the lines located.  You might even decide that the bush would look better on the other side of the yard.

First Time 811 Users

As a first time user of 811, the following is information you will need to know when excavating near buried facilities.

  • Each member company will mark their underground lines with a designated color using spray paint or flags. The following is a list of each color code and the utility they represent:


Red indicates electric
Yellow indicates gas
Orange indicates communication lines, including both telephone and cable television
Blue indicates water
Green indicates Sewer

  • Once the lines have been marked, state law requires that you do not dig within 18 inches on either side of the facility markings. This is known as the safety or “tolerance” zone.


  • If you do have to dig within the safety or “tolerance” zone, state law requires that you use “non-invasive” methods. This is commonly considered to be hand digging or use of technology known as “vacuum excavating”. When digging within the tolerance zone it is critical to use care and caution.


  • Alabama 811 member utilities will mark their facilities free of charge. The locate request you just placed is a free service. By using 811, our member utilities will mark the lines that belong to them, which include any facilities in the right of way of a property or up to the meter at the house or building. Most people are excavating in the right of way or in the area where the utility owns the lines. However, if you are working around lines past the meter, these are considered service lines and are “owned” by the property owner, not the utility. This would include water lines from the meter to the house or a gas service line from the meter to a backyard grill, etc. If you will be working in those areas and find you need these service lines located in addition to what has been marked by the utilities through the 811 service, there are locating companies who can locate them for you. There may be a fee associated with them doing this. Remember, there is no charge for the request you have placed with Alabama 811.


  • All utility companies are not required to be members of Alabama 811 until January 2022, if there are any utilities that are not included in the list of members notified, you will need to contact them directly.


  • If you talked directly to our office, the 811 agent should have given you the date for when the locate request should be marked and how long the request is good for. The law requires a full 2 working day notice to allow the facility owners to mark their lines. A locate requests is good for 20 working days. State law requires that if you working past the 20 working days, you need to update your request to ensure the utilities know you are still working around their lines. Keep your reference number available, as this is proof of your notifying the utilities and complying with the state law.


  • If the 2 full working day notice should expire and a particular utility has not located, we suggest you call us back with your reference number so that we can send out a second notice to that utility requesting them to mark ASAP. This is for your protection.


PO BOX 1030
Dadeville, AL  36853

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