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Willie Delfs
Energy Wiseguy Willie Delfs of Able Home Builders

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Your Energy Wise Guy…..Willie

Digging and Excavating Safety Guidelines – Reminders for Construction Workers and Home Owners

Digging and excavating
It’s important for everyone to be informed about working near gas, electric and other underground utilities.
Get utilities marked through phone or online request.
Before you begin digging or blasting for any reason, you must dial 811 or file an online request in your state at for each job to locate underground gas, electric, or other utilities, at least two full working days before digging.

Iowa – 800-292-8989
Nebraska – 800-331-5666
South Dakota – 800-781-7474

Digging around unmarked utilities can be dangerous and costly
If you do not have utilities marked and choose to work anyway – even for small projects like planting shrubs or installing fencing – you could risk personal injury or death, property damage and legal trouble. Coming into contact with an underground electric line can shock or kill you and cause power outages, while contacting an underground gas pipe can lead to a fire or explosion.

For privately owned gas and electric utilities, you must have a qualified contractor mark the location, including pipes and wires that pass through MidAmerican Energy-owned meters.

What Do the Underground Colors Mean?

Hand dig before using mechanized digging tools or excavators.
The horizontal location of underground utilities will be marked, but their depth will not be. Any time you suspect unmarked hazards, hand dig the area carefully to test your suspicions. Backfill the soil gently to avoid damaging any utilities.

Excavator operators should take extra precautions.
We recommend these four steps anytime anyone operates heavy digging machinery:

  1. Look up: Ensure you are clearing overhead lines and trees.
  2. Look down: Call 811 or visit before you start digging.
  3. Look around: Always have someone outside the machine, looking around blind spots.
  4. Look often: Ensure that you are periodically checking your clearance.

If you contact an underground utility: leave the area immediately, tell others to stay away.
Call MidAmerican Energy at 1-800-799-4443 (Electric) or 1-800-595-5325 (Gas) as quickly as possible. Report any incidental contact to utilities because there is no such thing as minor damage to utilities.

Signs of damaged gas lines:

  • An unusual odor, like rotting eggs or an unpleasant skunk- like scent
  • A hissing or roaring noise, indicating escaped gas
  • Blowing or continuous bubbling in water or wet areas
  • Brown or dead vegetation in an otherwise green area

Steps to take if you spot a gas leak or damaged pipe:

  • Leave the area immediately
  • Establish a restricted area around the leak and keep others away
  • Don’t drive or start a vehicle near the area
  • Avoid creating any sparks or other sources of ignition
  • Call 911 and MidAmerican Energy at 800-595-5325

Steps to take if you come into contact with an underground electric line:

  • Leave the area immediately
  • Drop the shovel or step away from the machine and leave; do not try to move it
  • Establish a restricted area and keep others away
  • Don’t drive a vehicle near the area
  • Call 911 and MidAmerican Energy at 800-799-4443

Credits to MidAmerican Energy for this article.

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