Tuesday, Aug. 11 is National 811 Day — and New Jersey Natural Gas is reminding all residents to call 8-1-1 prior to any digging project.

It's free, and it's the law.

Maria Diaz, damage prevention and safety awareness manager, said most homeowners have no idea what is underground before they dig. The homeowner might damage his or her own gas or cable line, or a neighbor's.

"You're basically digging blind, not realizing your damaging an underground utility," Diaz said.

Excavation damage continues to be the No. 1 cause of pipeline damage, she said.

Every digging project, no matter how large or small, requires a call to 811. That includes everything from installing or replacing a mailbox post to building a deck to laying a patio to removing a tree stump.

Call at least three days prior to a project, but no more than 10 days before, Diaz said. The operator will walk the person through the process with a series of questions that include, "What is your plan? What are you going to be doing? How deep will you be digging?" The operator will give the person a list of entities that need to be notified.

The person doing the excavation will next be given a dig date and start-by-date. A ticket for the dig project expires within 45 days.

When the utility operators come out, they will mark any facilities with flags, paint or both, Diaz said.

Once the facility is marked, Diaz suggested taking a picture of the mark-out so that the person has it and knows where the lines are located. This especially comes in handy if, during the project, the mark-outs don't last because rain washes them away.

She said New Jersey Natural Gas has seen a big uptick in underground utility line damage during the COVID-19 pandemic and stay-at-home orders, with folks doing more improvement projects while at home. Diaz said everyone has been given their "honey-to-do-lists." Often during the pandemic, New Jersey Natural Gas has received calls about broken gas lines, broken pool lines and even busted electric lines, she said.

If an excavator does not get to their digging his or her project within the 45-day expiration date assigned to that project, that person can just call again.

More information is at nj1-call.org and the My Safety section of njng.com. In the event of damage to a natural gas pipeline, immediately call 911, then NJNG at 800-GAS-LEAK.

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