Safety up as more San Antonians call 811 before they dig

Hits to electrical and gas lines are down 25 percent so far this year in CPS Energy’s service territory, thanks in part to a 15 percent increase in calls to 811.

That’s the federally-mandated national “Call Before You Dig” number created to help protect people from unintentionally hitting underground utility lines while working on digging projects.

People digging often make risky assumptions about whether or not they should get their utility lines marked due to concerns about project delays, costs and previous calls about other projects, according to These assumptions can be life-threatening, as gas lines can be explosive when hit.

“We’re very pleased to see hits going down,” said Don Stanton, senior director of gas delivery for CPS Energy. “Natural gas is a great energy source but, like any other energy source, it should be handled with care and that means calling before you dig to ensure your safety.”

Anyone planning to dig within CPS Energy’s service territory should call 811 for what’s called a “locate,” a free service that marks underground gas and electric lines so they can be avoided.

Calling 811 is not just the wise and safe thing to do; it’s the law. That means failure to call can be dangerous not just to your health and your community, but your wallet as well. In addition to paying for whatever damage you might cause, Stanton said those who don’t call, dig and hit a line will likely also face fines from the Texas Railroad Commission.

Once you call 811 with the location of a proposed dig, professional locators will visit
the site to mark the approximate location of underground utility lines with spray paint or flags. Once a site has been accurately marked, it is safe to begin digging — carefully! — around the marked areas.

Stanton said CPS Energy gets more than 120,000 calls annually, with numbers rising in spring and summer, when residents tackle landscaping projects and commercial construction increases.

While more people are getting the message, a survey released in March by Common Ground Alliance, the association created to help prevent damage to underground utility infrastructure, found that 51 percent of American homeowners who plan to dig this year will put themselves and communities at risk by not calling 811:

“According to the survey results, homeowners who plan to dig this year know the paint marks and flags on the ground are used to identify underground utilities, but among these ‘DIYers,’ more than half will not call 811, increasing the chances for injuries and utility service outages in their neighborhoods,” said CGA President Bob Kipp. “With spring upon us, tens of millions of homeowners will reach for their shovels and begin digging for landscape and other home improvement projects. It is critical for them to pick up the phone and make a free call to 811 a few days before those projects begin.”

You can find Texas specific information, plus tips for building a fence, planting trees and other landscaping tips at

So don’t be one of the 51 percent. Know what’s below and call before you dig.

Tracy Idell Hamilton

Tracy Idell Hamilton was part of the Corporate Communications team at CPS Energy.