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One simple call to 811 can save lives

by on April 9, 2013

(Story by Ann Marie Keifer)

Did you know that an underground utility line is damaged every three minutes in the United States? Additionally, nearly 26 percent of dig-ins occur because a call to 811 wasn’t made before digging, so the underground facilities weren’t marked.

AEP is working to help reduce those statistics by trying to educate customers about the importance of calling 811 before any digging project.


“In 2012, AEP’s Underground Damage Prevention department received more than 1.16 million locate requests for all 11 states, which is a 7 percent increase over 2011,” explained Melissa Volkert, supervisor, Underground Damage Prevention. “On the other hand, we experienced 656 reported dig-ins in our service territory, which also increased, so we still have work to do around educating customers about the importance of calling to have underground lines marked. In 2013, we are working to identify and close gaps in communication between some of our contract locators and excavators, which we believe can help minimize dig-ins to our own facilities.”

Volkert also explained that no job is too small to require making the call to 811. “In the past, we’ve heard from homeowners who were doing something as small as planting flowers or a shrub when they hit or exposed some type of line,” she said. “This only has to occur once for them to understand that the size of the project doesn’t matter. They need to call 811 each and every time they are digging.”

“From a public safety perspective, we see numerous dig-in events each year, which can have dangerous and even fatal outcomes. So, when we say that one simple call to 811 can save a life, it’s absolutely true.” said Ken Frazier, vice president, Safety & Health. “Even with all the publicity that has been done around 811, there are still people out there that don’t know about the free call and free service, so we can’t stop until that call is second nature and we reach Zero Harm.”

AEP employees can help spread the 811 messages to their families, neighbors and friends too. “We have an 811 video on our Web sites that can be viewed or downloaded, as well as a factsheet that can be printed as a handout,” said Frazier. “Our employees also can help educate others. If you see someone digging without the telltale paint marks or flags, ask them if they called 811. You could save a life with that simple question.”

A national organization, Common Ground Alliance (CGA), even has an 811 Promise campaign where people can pledge to always call before they dig. You can learn more about the campaign here.

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