By Roger Cox, President, ACTS Now, Inc.

Even after all these years of flying across the country, I’m still fascinated by the millions of city lights that appear on the horizon about the same time as we’re told to put our seats and trays in the locked and upright position.

While I enjoy the lights and the conveniences electricity brings to us, perhaps because I live and work in the underground industry, I can’t help but think of the thousands of hard-working folks and the millions of miles of power lines across the country.

I read the other day that the U.S. electrical grid is the largest interconnected machine on Earth. It consists of more than 450,000 miles of high-voltage transmission lines and 5.5 million miles of local distribution lines, linking thousands of generating plants to factories, homes and businesses.

This power grid was built over a hundred years ago and a lot of the current infrastructure is over fifty years old. The current grid is vulnerable to weather, natural disasters, Electro-Magnetic Pulse (EMP) weapons, and cyber-attack.

While most of that is beyond the average person’s pay grade, what is within our control (for the most part) is how we decide to excavate near the ever-growing number of underground utility lines, especially power lines.

Really, the beauty of keeping utility lines safe and in proper working order is they allow us to live our lives seamlessly. And when there’s an outage, it’s pretty inconvenient, sometimes for tens, hundreds or even thousands of users. Even if it’s simply not being able to watch the show you love, or because you have to drink room temperature water instead of ice cold water from the fridge. But the greatest concern is not the inconvenience, nor even the outage; it is the attack on safety for the general public and for the workers at the job site.

Because many utility lines are buried underground, it’s easy to forget they are there and that they really are the framework of our lives. That’s why we have to be so careful about digging anywhere. Until we have underground utilities located and identified by the utility or its locating representative, we don’t know what’s under the ground nor what might be disrupted. It’s important to know the risks and how to avoid getting injured from accidental contact with these buried lines. The most obvious and unfortunate cost of contact with power lines or gas pipelines is injury or death

And that’s like playing Russian Roulette, except with two bullets in the gun… probably not a good decision.

Of course, the way to get the underground utilities located and identified is to contact 811 before you dig. You are a professional excavator. Let the professionals at the 811 center get in touch with the right personnel at the utility company. By doing so, the utility company can send a professional to locate the approximate location of the underground line before you get there. Not only can that save you time and money, but can be the difference maker as to whether you or your employees get the opportunity to go home after the job.

Yes sir, we all owe our friends at the electric cooperatives, publicly-owned and privately-owned power companies a debt of gratitude for keeping the current flowing in the most adverse weather conditions. They band together to ensure every home and every business is safe, warm in the winter time and cool in the summer time. Protecting their underground infrastructure is serious business with them because they know the potential consequences of accidental contact with their utility lines.

Let’s do our part in helping them keep the lights on by contacting 811 before we dig and we give them the chance to help us remain safe until we move safely away from the danger of digging into their buried lines.

It’s up to you!