San Francisco: Better to Be Safe than Sorry, Reminds Gas Locate and Mark Employee

SAN FRANCISCO — PG&E is using today – Aug. 11 or 8/11 – to remind customers about the importance of calling 811 before starting any digging project.

PG&E's Raymund Datu prepares to canvas the West Portal neighborhood in San Francisco to locate and mark underground utilities.

PG&E’s Raymund Datu prepares to canvas the West Portal neighborhood in San Francisco to locate and mark underground utilities.

“I’ve been doing this for 25 years,” said Raymund Datu, a San Francisco-based member of PG&E’s gas locate and mark team. “I never get tired of reminding people of how important it is that they call 811 before they do any kind of construction or digging.”

PG&E’s Raymund Datu prepares to canvas the West Portal neighborhood in San Francisco to locate and mark underground utilities. (Photo by Nick Smith.)

Statistics for San Francisco show a simple call before any excavation, large or small, can prevent damage to underground utility equipment and all the problems associated with it, including injuries or outages. There were 92 dig-ins reported in the San Francisco service area in 2014; in the first half of 2015, there have been 34.

“I want everyone one to go home safe. I want the neighborhood to be safe,” he said. ”Our customers and their families matter – just like my own.”

PG&E's Raymund Datu prepares to canvas the West Portal neighborhood in San Francisco to locate and mark underground utilities.

PG&E’s Raymund Datu prepares to canvas the West Portal neighborhood in San Francisco to locate and mark underground utilities.

Datu spent most of his morning servicing an 811 request. He carefully canvassed Vicente Street between 15th and 16th avenues, marking the areas where underground utilities may be located. He has been to this West Portal neighborhood before, but each new service request requires him to return and start the process from scratch.

“On Aug. 11 and throughout the year, we want to remind homeowners and professional contractors alike to be safe and call 811 before digging to avoid striking an underground utility line,” said Stephanie Isaacson, San Francisco Division senior manager for PG&E. “Calling 811 is the best way to find out which utilities are buried in your area.”

National statistics show that once every three minutes a utility line is damaged by digging. In PG&E’s service area, which stretches from the Oregon border to Bakersfield, more than 2,000 dig-ins where third-parties struck PG&E lines were reported between June 2011 and June 2012. Of these, nearly half were caused by residential customers, and nearly two-thirds were instances where a customer or contractor didn’t call 811.

These incidents are all completely preventable. Prevention starts with a call at least two days in advance of any excavation work to Underground Service Alert (USA), a free service for homeowners, excavators and professional contractors.

PG&E Veteran Raymund Datu.

PG&E Veteran Raymund Datu.

“Our first priority is the keep the public safe,” said Jay Randolph, superintendent of gas maintenance and construction for PG&E’s San Francisco Division. “Aug. 11 provides a great opportunity to remind our customers about the importance of calling 811 before any residential or commercial digging project. Installing a mailbox, building a deck, planting a tree or pouring a concrete slab is an example of where a call to 811 can be the difference in making your project a safe project.”

When customers call 811, PG&E and other utilities are notified so they can determine whether or not they have underground facilities at the excavation site. PG&E will either mark the area or notify a customer that the area is clear.

PG&E only marks its own gas, electric and communication lines. PG&E will typically field mark the horizontal location of gas and electric facilities by painting stripes on surface streets and sidewalks or marking unpaved areas with colored flags. Yellow designates gas lines and red designates electric lines.

Here are some specific steps for residential and business customers to take.

Plan the excavation. Calls to 811 can be made up to 14 days in advance. Advanced notice helps utilities schedule their mark and locate resources.
Call USA at least two working days prior to the start of excavation.
Determine the limits of the excavation area and mark out the excavation site in white.
Use hand tools to carefully excavate next to marked underground facilities.
Respect and maintain the field markings for the duration of the job.
Extend the USA ticket if your project goes beyond 28 calendar days.
If there is any type of damage to PG&E electric wires or gas pipelines, or if there is a possible gas leak, take these steps:
1) Move to a safe location
2) Call 911
3) Call PG&E at 1-800-743-5000
For more information about USA visit www.call811.com