That was close!

The house you’re flipping is lacking a little on the landscape side, so you and buddies decide that a lamppost near the front walkway would be a great idea.

turned on outdoor lamp
Photo by Zak Chapman on

You decide in order to save a little money, you’ll dig the trench so that the electrician doesn’t have to.  The ground is difficult to break with shovel, so you bring out your pick axe.  The first few swings work great, but on the next one you strike something.

You lean down into the hole to see what it is.  Then you discover that you’ve just nicked the casing of an underground electrical line to the house.  Wow! That was close!

I can hear some of you saying, “Oh, come on! Like that would ever happen!”  Well, it did happen.  I was digging a hole for a fence post in my back yard, and nicked the electrical cable.  My house was between two roads, and the electricity for my home, went underground through a neighbor’s property, through my backyard and into my house.  I had incorrectly assumed that the electricity was fed from the road my house was on.

I’m grateful that, now, it’s a law that you need to call Dig Safe before you dig around your home.  While no system is perfect, it greatly decreases the chances of accidents or incidents happening.  It doesn’t just apply to electrical systems, it applies to all utilities: gas, propane, sewer, water, etc.

I met my friend Joe at a company at which we both were employed.  Joe was a temp and a handy sort of fellow.  I was the head of Safety.  Joe had mentioned to me that he could have signs made up rather cheaply, and if I needed any, to let him know.

I took Joe up on his offer as we needed a sign to indicate the place for the employees to collect in the event of an emergency evacuation.  Joe had the “collection point” sign made up and brought it, the signpost, the hardware and a sledge hammer to work one day.  He cheerfully bound into my office that day and said, “I’ve got the sign.  If you want to show me where to put it, I’ll set it up.” “Sure,” I responded, as we headed out to the parking lot.  We made our way to an end of an island in the parking lot that was visible from both the front and rear of the building.  I said, “Right here looks like a good spot.”  Joe marked the spot and replied, “Great.  I’ll go get my sledge hammer and get to work.”  [Joe was expecting to spend 10 minutes to drive in the signpost and fasten the sign to it.]

“Hold on sec,” I said, “We’ve got to call Dig Safe.”  Joe looked at me and chuckled.  “Yeah, right!” was his response.   “No, I’m serious.  You need to give them a call before you put in the post.”  He gave me a glaring look out of the corner of his eye.  “Ok,” he said sarcastically.  “Just humor me,”  I said.  “All right, I’ll give them a call,” said Joe somewhat begrudgingly.

scenic view of fire at night
Photo by Pixabay on

A day or so later Joe strolled into my office holding his belly and laughing hysterically.  “What’s going on, Joe?” I asked.  “Boy, do I owe you an apology!” he exclaimed.

“You do?  For what?”

“Well, Dig Safe was just here and that point where you wanted to put the sign, it was directly over a 4 inch gas main about 8 inches below the ground!  If I had put that sign post in, I would have been blown into space!”  and he continued to chuckle.  “Wow!” I exclaimed, “That was close…but that’s why we call them.  I’m just glad you’re still here.”

“I will never doubt you again!” said Joe.

Often times we think of rules as those things that are just there as an annoyance;  because someone wants to throw their weight around.  But somewhere along the line, someone wanted to protect people when they made that rule.  Think of a child.  Letting a small child play in the street probably isn’t safe, so parents make rules to protect them.

When we, as adults, decide to sidestep rules, there may be consequences; even significant consequences if we choose to bypass them.  I hope that these two real-life accounts will help you see the importance of following this rule.

For most areas, simply dialing 811 will connect you with Dig Safe, as it is known in Northern New England.  If you cannot connect with them through 811, check out the website.  If that doesn’t work, contact your local code enforcement office. It could literally save your life.