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NC 811, It’s An Important Call

NC 811, It’s An Important Call

As the New Year begins, thoughts turn to plans for the coming year. If the goals include gardening and home improvement projects that involve digging, it is important to remember to plan to call the North Carolina 811 Call Center before your project begins. The North Carolina 811 Call Center is a single point of contact for underground utility providers. Homeowners or contractors can call 811 or 1-800-632-4949, Monday-Friday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., or can visit the website and fill out a SAT, or single address ticket, at This informs all of the utility providers in the area that they need to come out and mark their lines so that any digging that the property owner is planning can be done safely, without damaging underground utilities or causing any pipeline problems.
Even small projects, like installing a mailbox or planting a tree, can impact underground utilities. There are 20 million miles of underground infrastructure in the United States, including electrical, water, natural gas, high speed internet, cable TV, and sewer, and because of erosion and other factors, some of these underground utilities are located near the surface.
In addition, there are several transmission pipelines that run through Kernersville, many on farmland or land with natural vegetation. Pipelines are important to our state, and are a major form of transportation for fuels and natural gas. They are marked with yellow posts, which include the name of the company and an emergency contact number, along with the substance that the pipeline is transporting.
Contacting NC 811 before digging is a great way for citizens to help prevent damage to underground utilities and improve pipeline safety. It is free, and it allows a trained technician to come out and mark any underground utilities that are on your property. This is the number one way to prevent a pipeline accident. If you have a large piece of property, and are only planning to dig on part of it, that area can be marked with a white circle, so the technician only looks for underground lines in that area.
For companies that are in the construction or road construction business, it is really important to be aware of the location of pipelines. In an accident in Texas, a 14-inch natural gas pipeline exploded when a bulldozer struck the pipeline. The explosion created a 10-foot crater, and two people lost their lives.
Citizens can help by becoming aware of the signs of a problem with a pipeline, and reporting observed hazards to emergency personnel. Signs of a leak in a pipeline, which vary depending on the substance in the pipeline, can be a white vapor cloud, a localized frozen area on the ground, mud or water bubbling up, or dead vegetation in an otherwise green area. There may be a sound, like a hissing or roaring sound, or a smell of gas or oil. In these cases, citizens should evacuate upwind and make a call to 911 from a safe distance.
As parcels of land in Kernersville that have pipeline easements are proposed for development, special attention will need to be given to the footprint of proposed buildings, parking lots, driveways and roads, to ensure safety for the future.
With careful planning for future growth, and by always remembering to call NC 811 before digging, we can all work together to protect underground utilities from damage and improve pipeline safety in our town.
Dawn Morgan is the Mayor of Kernersville, Chairman of the Onward Kernersville Transportation Task Force, and writes a weekly column for the News.

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