National 811 Safe Digging Day: Learn about the Work our Teams Do

By Darlene Masse

8-1-1-DigSafe-New-EnglandToday is National 811 Safe Digging Day. As National Grid reminds customers to always call 811 before every digging project, we recently spent the day shadowing an employee from our Damage Prevention team to see first-hand the work they do in marking out utility lines and keeping the public safe.

To start, consider that every six minutes, an underground utility line in the US is damaged due to excavation work.

Third party strikes are the leading cause of natural gas leaks on our gas system each year. Many of these incidents can be avoided by taking one simple action…calling Dig Safe at 811 to mark underground utilities.

Here are some other interesting stats, based on a three-year annual average of National Grid data.

Massachusetts by the Numbers:

  • 320,000 – Average number of annual requests that National Grid receives each year to mark out gas and electric utility lines.
  • 130 – Average number of damages that occurred as a result of no prior calls to DigSafe.

Rhode Island by the Numbers:

  • 110,000 – Average number of annual requests that National Grid receives each year to mark out gas and electric utility lines.
  • 15 – Average number of damages that occurred as a result of no prior calls to DigSafe.

8-1-1-New-England-1Our day in the field involved shadowing John Murphy, a 10-year veteran of National Grid’s damage prevention team in Rhode Island. Our first assignment involved going to what some might consider an unlikely place: a blasting site.

A construction company was preparing a parcel of land for construction of a condominium complex in Burrillville, RI, and was conducting several well-timed blasts per day to clear the site and get it ready for development. John, along with fellow three-year National Grid employee Justin Colarusso from our Customer Meter Services team, was tasked that day with checking for gas leaks before and after every blast, as well as measuring the seismic activity of each blast. While the site had all of the utility markings already, John freshened up the natural gas markings while we were there. 

John talked about how he typically goes to several blasting jobs per month. “We are involved whenever someone is blasting near our natural gas pipelines,” said John. These blasting jobs are all coordinated and involve the expertise of many people, including engineers, who determine how much explosive can be used near our infrastructure to avoid any damage.

The next assignment was to visit a site in downtown Providence. A landscaping crew was installing new grass and a flower garden at a local university building. To support this request, John used a tracing device and GPS mapping software to identify where the natural gas line was on the property. He marked it with the familiar yellow color for marking underground natural gas utility lines, as well as installed a series of flags.

As we passed a water main cleaning and repair job on the East Side of Providence, John was stopped by their contractor crew. John mentioned that National Grid’s damage prevention team gets to know the local contractors very well and works with them on a regular basis to protect our infrastructure. In this section of Providence, the water and natural gas mains are in close proximity, so the contractors work with us frequently to avoid “dig-in” strikes to gas lines.

John is one of 10 employees on the Damage Prevention team in Rhode Island. As we spend the day going to various assignments, it’s clear how much John enjoys his job and is respected for what he does. “Every day is a little bit different, and it’s a good department with good supervisors,” he said.

Important DigSafe Tips

  • Call 811 before you dig – All digging jobs require a call first to DigSafe.
  • Find out the location of utility lines – The depth of utility lines vary; however, natural gas lines could be buried within just 18 inches of the surface. State laws require utilities to be marked before any digging project.
  • Damage can lead to leaks – “Dig-ins” are the leading cause of natural gas leaks each year. A simple phone call to 811 can potentially avert tragedy.
  • Stay safe and keep these numbers handy – If you suspect a natural gas leak, call National Grid.

Massachusetts:  1-800-233-5325

Rhode Island:  1-800-640-1595

These are dedicated Gas Emergency phone numbers. National Grid has crews on call 24 hours/7 days a week who will respond immediately.

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