WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--To commemorate National 811 Day in the nation’s capital, Washington Gas is showcasing major progress made across all three of its service territories in Maryland, Washington, D.C. and Virginia to significantly reduce damage to natural gas lines caused by unsafe digging. In the United States, every nine minutes an underground utility line is damaged because of digging by individuals who do not call 811 beforehand.
One of the leading causes of gas leak emergencies in the country are damages to underground gas lines by individuals and contractors performing excavation work such as digging, boring and directional drilling. National 811 Day provides an excellent opportunity to highlight how everyone can participate in reducing damages by calling 811 before doing any type of excavation work. The Call Before You Dig 811 program, which is a free service, provides clear guidance and instruction to reduce damage to all types of underground utilities, including gas lines.
Through Washington Gas’ widely deployed awareness campaigns, educational initiatives, training sessions and close collaboration with energy industry groups and state regulatory commissions, the message to encourage calling 811 before beginning a project that involves digging or excavating so that underground utility lines can be marked ahead of time continues to gain traction among customers, contractors, construction crews and homeowners. The decrease in incidences of utility lines being struck demonstrates how 811 can protect the community, prevent injury, avoid interrupted service and put safety first.
Washington Gas’ damage prevention program has dramatically reduced damages since its inception in 1989 when damages averaged more than 8 strikes per 1,000 requests for assistance identifying underground utilities. Today, that number is about 1 strike per 1,000 requests.
“We are pleased to have achieved a great deal of success in reducing damage to our gas distribution system. Keeping our customers safe and providing reliable service are our highest priorities and preventing damage is a key way we do that,” said Adrian Chapman, President and Chief Executive Officer of Washington Gas, a WGL company serving more than 1.1 million customers. “We are proud to celebrate the improvements across our service territory and applaud the partnerships that led to the success of many public education programs promoting the importance of the Call Before You Dig principles.”
Chapman added, “We need to maintain our vigilance to ensure all underground utilities, including natural gas lines, are marked properly and that those marks are respected to prevent damage. We can only do that when the public helps us spread the word about calling 811 each and every time they dig.”
As a result of investment in damage prevention programs, including implementing robust 811 advocacy, enhanced outreach and ongoing education throughout its service territories, Maryland, Washington, D.C. and Virginia are recognized leaders in the industry for decreasing utility line damage incidences caused by unsafe digging practices. In addition, Washington Gas has developed an Enhanced Positive Response (EPR) that not only locates and marks underground utilities but also provides customer-detailed information, including photographs and mapping, about the location and mark each time a call comes in. This EPR process, combined with Washington Gas’ computer-generated algorithm, and a risk ranking of each locate and mark request, has helped Washington Gas maintain a leadership role in damage prevention. These programs are considered industry best practices and are established in all the Company’s jurisdictions.
Highlights of Washington Gas initiatives include:
- For the second consecutive year, Washington Gas has partnered with the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) and joined with the Miss Utility Group for its annual National Call 811 Day at Nationals Park stadium to hand out literature and interact with fans about the positive impact of calling 811 to avoid disruptive damage to utility lines.
- Washington Gas participates in a series of bus caravan (or, “Care-A-Van”) stops with volunteers that visit communities, fairs, school events, festivals and other gatherings with a colorfully branded Call Before You Dig 811 van that brings the message of safe digging from town to town to educate neighbors and families.
- This year, Washington Gas is continuing a partnership with NBC4 TV news, to co-produce a public service announcement (PSA) message that urges the community to Call Before You Dig and reminds viewers and listeners about the importance of dialing 811 before starting any project that involves digging.
Regulatory commissions in Washington Gas’ service territory partner in support of 811
“By taking this simple and necessary step of calling 811 in advance of any digging project, neighborhoods remain safe and connected,” stated Betty Ann Kane, Chairman of the Public Service Commission of the District of Columbia. “Each year in the District, we dedicate time and resources in educating residents about safe digging practices in order to prevent service interruptions, damage to the environment and personal injury.”
“We encourage everyone to use the 811 service before breaking ground for any digging project. This program has been an effective way to ensure proper procedures are followed and avoid costly damages,” said Jason Stanek, Chairman of the Maryland Public Service Commission. “The Commission is a strong advocate of measures that protect our energy infrastructure, making sure utility service is safe and reliable for our residents, businesses and local communities.”
Reminders for contractors and homeowners who call 811 before they dig:
- Anyone digging should call 811 at least two full working days (excluding weekends and holidays) before they are scheduled to begin any type of digging to report where they are planning to dig and what type of work they will be doing.
- Utility companies that may have facilities in the area of the dig site will be notified about the potential excavation. Each affected utility company will send a locator to mark the approximate location of the nearby underground utility lines.
For more information, please refer to Washington Gas’ Natural Gas e-book that includes Resources, Safety Tips and Emergency Information, with a section dedicated to 811: https://washingtongas.dcatalog.com/v/Natural-Gas-101/#page=8.
About WGL and Washington Gas
The WGL family of companies—Washington Gas, WGL Energy, WGL Midstream and Hampshire Gas—are now indirect, wholly-owned subsidiaries of AltaGas Ltd [TSX:ALA]. WGL is headquartered in Washington, D.C., and is a leading source for clean, efficient and diverse energy solutions. With activities and assets across the U.S., WGL provides options for natural gas, electricity, green power and energy services, including generation, storage, transportation, distribution, supply and efficiency. Our calling as a company is to make energy surprisingly easy for our employees, our community and all our customers. Whether you are a homeowner or renter, small business or multinational corporation, state and local or federal agency, WGL is here to provide Energy Answers. Ask Us. For more information, visit us at wgl.com and @wglanswers.
WGL’s regulated natural gas utility, Washington Gas, provides safe, reliable natural gas service to more than 1.1 million customers in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia. The company has been providing energy to residential, commercial and industrial customers for 170 years. Visit us at www.washingtongas.com and follow us on Twitter @washingtongas.