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Nation's Volunteer Firefighters are Asked to Promote 811 for Public and Responder Safety
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  Nation's Volunteer Firefighters are Asked to Promote 811 for Public and Responder Safety  

The U.S. Department of Transportation and its Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) are strongly committed to pipeline and first responder safety. PHMSA is asking the assistance of the members of the National Volunteer Fire Council to help promote the national “811 - Call Before You Dig” campaign to increase public awareness of how to prevent digging-related incidents in their local communities.

Calling 811 at least 48 hours prior to digging or excavation will notify local utility companies to send a locator to mark the approximate location of all underground power lines, liquid and gas pipelines, and communication cables. That way the excavator "will know what's below" and be able to dig safely.

Digging without getting utilities marked is not only potentially dangerous to the excavator and general public, but also to the emergency responders who are at risk when responding to hazardous pipeline and other utility incidents.

Damage to pipelines from excavation is a leading cause of pipeline incidents that can result in death, injury, property, and environmental damages. It can also cause major service and other disruptions. However, these types of incidents can often be avoided completely. The local fire department can play an important role in reducing community risk related to excavation damage to pipelines and improve public and responder safety by promoting safe digging and calling 811, the national toll-free “Call Before You Dig” number. 

The Common Ground Alliance (CGA), a PHMSA pipeline safety partner, reports that approximately 30 percent of homeowners plan to dig on their property this year for an outdoor improvement project. They need to be reminded to call 811 at least 48 hours before they start work. Since the establishment of the universal 811 hotline six years ago, the number of serious pipeline incidents from excavation has decreased by more than 45 percent.

“We need the nation’s volunteer fire departments, EMS, and rescue services to help make 811 as well-known as 911. Digging without knowing about the location of utilities is not only dangerous, it can also cut off services to entire neighborhoods and cost money and major inconveniences,” says PHMSA Administrator Cynthia Quarterman. “The good news is that nearly all digging-related incidents can be prevented with a single call to 811. The fact that pipeline damage incidents have dropped 45 percent since 811 was created shows it works!”

Last year, PHMSA produced and distributed an 811 public service announcement (PSA) for television and radio to promote the use of 811.  This PSA is available free for your use in both English and Spanish and can be downloaded at http://www.phmsa.dot.gov/pipeline.

PHMSA also hopes the nation’s volunteer fire service, EMS and rescue services will help highlight the promotion of August 11 [811] as “National 811 Day.” These efforts are coordinated nationwide by CGA, along with partner states and underground utilities companies such as Verizon, Baltimore Gas & Electric, and Shell Pipeline Company. The CGA has free resources to assist public safety organizations with their 811 outreach efforts. These include a communications plan/calendar, National Safe Digging Month templates and logos, and campaign ideas that are all available on the CGA web site at http://call811.com/campaign-materials/default.aspx.

Here are some specific things volunteer fire departments can do to promote 811:

  • Share the 811 link and PSA on social media accounts
  • Ask your residents and businesses to take the 811 pledge at:http://the811promise.com/#top
  • Post the 811 logo and link on the fire department’s web sites and ask your public works department to do the same.
  • Post the 811 logo in email signatures.
  • Include 811 materials during community events and open houses.
  • Ask your building official and permits office to display 811 information.

Visit PHMSA’s Pipeline Safety Guide for more information on safe digging practices and what to do if you detect a gas pipeline leak. Additional information concerning damage prevention initiatives is available on PHMSA’s Stakeholder Communications web site athttp://primis.phmsa.dot.gov/comm.


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