Neglect one simple step and you could dig yourself into deep trouble. So “call before you dig.” It’s the law.
That’s the message promoted by the Oregon Utility Notification Center (OUNC), a new state agency that provides a one-call service to contractors, excavators and homeowners to let them know what they may encounter underground.
The center’s aim is to prevent damage, service disruptions and potential disaster from uncharted digging into buried service facilities.
Callers to the center must identify project locations 48 business hours before starting work, giving exact street or other coordinate information The center then notifies all affected utilities which subscribe to the center of the pending excavation. Each utility sends employees to locate underground lines near the project with color-coded paint that identifies what kind of utility is underground.
Failure to call and receive necessary guidance can prove messy at the very least, disrupt essential services and may be downright hazardous. Everyone, including homeowners, must call OUNC when planning to dig. Neighborhoods, especially new ones, have extensive utility lines criss-crossing under their yards.
Do-it-yourselfers planting trees or setting fence posts have been known to damage electric, telephone, gas and other utility lines. There have been cases of electrocution and severe injuries caused by damage to electric lines. Also loss of service and property due to water or gas line ruptures, or possibly worse.
Recognizing the complexity of the underground network and its safety implications, the 1995 Oregon Legislature created a new state agency to establish a single, statewide, non-profit center, and reiterated the legal requirement to call before you dig.
The new law includes fines and penalties for failure to call before digging. Violators can also be liable for repair costs for damage resulting from non-compliance with the law’s requirements.
The Oregon Utility Notification Center, located in Portland, will take locate requests 24 hours/day, seven days a week.