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811: The Number to Call Before Digging

Whether you’re planting a garden, installing a mailbox or hiring a contractor for a more complex job, it’s important to call 811 before digging in your yard.

Why? Calling 811 will get your underground utility lines marked and your project off to a safe start.

Utility service lines such as cable TV, telephone, electric, gas, water and sewer are often buried underground. Unintentionally striking one of these lines could result in more trouble than you’d expect (think power outages for entire neighborhoods, injury, fines and/or repair costs).

That’s why it’s better to make a phone call than a judgment call.

What Is 811?

This federally mandated national number aims to make the process easier. Instead of looking up phone numbers for all the local utility companies, you just need to call 811. Learn more at

Does Every Digging Project Require a Call?

Yes. Many buried utilities are just a few inches below the surface, and you could easily hit a line, even during simple projects like planting flowers.

If you’re digging in a small area and don’t need your whole yard marked, you can outline the area of your project with white paint or flags. They’re easy to find at home improvement stores. Make sure to let the 811 operator know about your plans to dig so they can direct the utility companies to the proper location.

Does 811 Cost Money?

You’ll be happy to know that 811 is a free service, and it may even end up saving you money by preventing costly damages caused by digging where utility lines are buried. No matter the size of your project, officials say that you should always play it safe and call 811.

How Do I Get a Utility Line Marked?

You need to dial 811 several days before you plan to start your digging project. Some states accept online requests, but it varies by location. Be sure to check your state’s call center for more detailed information. Each state has different rules and regulations about digging.

When you make your request, a representative will collect your information and notify local utility companies of your intent to dig.

After you call, a professional will visit the dig site to mark the location of all underground utility lines with spray paint or flags.

What Are the Standard Color Codes for Underground Utilities?

The colored flags in your yard each have a meaning. The standard utility service paint or flags colors are:

  • Red: Electric
  • Orange: Communications, telephone and cable television
  • Blue: Drinking water
  • Green: Sewer/drainage
  • Yellow: Gas/petroleum pipeline
  • Purple: Reclaimed water, irrigation and slurry lines
  • White: Site of intended excavation
  • Pink: Survey markings

How Long Will It Take To Get My Utility Lines Marked?

Most crews will arrive within two or three business days of contacting 811.

The crew will mark underground lines so you know exactly where (and where not) to dig. The depths of utility lines may vary, and there may be multiple utility lines in the same area. Once your site is marked, it is safe to begin digging outside of the identified areas.

Insurance and Digging Projects

If you’re digging as part of a home improvement project, you might want to check in with your insurance agent. A major home improvement project like a deck, patio or landscaping could increase the value of your home, so you’ll want to be sure you have the proper amount of coverage. Learn more about homeowners insurance from Erie Insurance and request a free quote.

Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Underground Service Lines?

Typical homeowners insurance policies do not provide coverage for damage to underground service lines or pipes. The lines can be damaged during excavation or digging from the weight of vehicles or equipment above ground. The costs to repair the damage can be substantial. 

If you have an ErieSecure Home® insurance policy, you can purchase additional protection that that provides coverage for the cost of service line repairs as well as related excavation costs, outdoor property damage and even loss of use, arising out of a covered loss. With ERIE’s Service Line coverage* as part of your home insurance, you won’t be stuck footing the bill on your own for these service line failures to your exterior underground service lines.

Related: Learn More About Service Line Coverage

Service Line Coverage is available when you add either the Plus or Select bundle to an ErieSecure Home® policy. Contact us today to learn about the details and get a quote on homeowners insurance that includes Service Line Coverage.

*Service line coverage and other important home protections are part of the ErieSecure Home® Plus and Select bundles. Lines from a home to a septic tank are covered, but lines from a septic tank to a leach field are not covered. See the policy for a full description of coverages, as well as terms, conditions and exclusions. Coverage is not available in North Carolina.