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Why (and Who) to Ask Before Your Dig
“It’s my yard and I’ll dig if I want to!” exclaimed the proud and proprietorial homeowner … just before 40,000 volts of electricity surged through his pickaxe.
If you think this kind of thing doesn’t happen you would be mistaken. And, if you think the wooden handle on that pickaxe (or your “rubber” gloves) is enough to impede the flow of that kind of voltage – you would be mistaken about that, too.
<strong>High Voltage ‘Behaves’ Aggressively</strong>
The kind of voltage that travels through high-power lines behaves in different ways than the low buzz that issues forth from the wall sockets in your home. Sticking a paper clip in one of those (NEVER, EVER DO THIS) will shock the sheep snot out of you, but that amount of voltage is almost never lethal.
In fact, the “accepted maximum harmless current” is well above the max voltage these plugs deliver, but even so – plugs aren’t toys!
Buried power lines, however, are a different story. They carry the kind of electricity that can literally jump from your shovel blade to your body – <em>or even from person to person</em>. In other words, you don’t even want to be standing <em>close</em> to someone who’s digging in the yard that hasn’t called to verify that it’s safe. And, by “close” we mean <a title="High Voltage Connection" href="http://www.highvoltageconnection.com/articles/ElectricShockQuestions.htm" target="_blank">anywhere within 20 feet</a>.
Given the power of these lines one might assume that they’re buried very deep underground, <a title="SFGate" href="http://homeguides.sfgate.com/deep-power-line-buried-82787.html" target="_blank">but that is not the case</a>. As per the National Electric Code, low-voltage lines can be as close as 18 inches to the surface and high-voltage lines may rest only 24 inches below the surface.
The good news is that these lines must be nestled within a very thick core of insulation. The bad news is that you can still hack your way through it if you’re passionate enough about digging.
<strong>“Know What’s Below”</strong>
We didn’t come up with that – that’s the clever work of the <a title="Common Ground Alliance" href="http://www.call811.com/default.aspx" target="_blank">Common Ground Alliance</a> and they politely request that <span style="text-decoration: underline;">you call 8-1-1 before you dig</span>. The 811 number is mandated by the Federal Communications Commission as a free coordinating service for the nation’s underground public utilities.
You must call 811 <em>a few days before</em> you plan to dig. You’ll explain to an operator where and how you plan to dig and in a few days someone will show up to mark your underground cables, lines and pipes. Boom! Done and done.
<a title="ATG Stores Homepage" href="http://www.atgstores.com/default.aspx" target="_blank">ATGStores.com</a> hopes this information helps keep you safer while you plan your next landscaping project.