By: Lareina Taing
Private underground facilities, also called customer-owned facilities, may be found anywhere, including your excavation site. Operators of lines buried in the public right-of-way must register with Montana 811 (MT 811), so these lines will be marked as the result of a locate request. Privately-owned facilities, like utility lines that serve heaters for hot tubs, gas barbecues, electric security lighting, invisible dog fences, farm taps, buried sprinklers systems, and many others, are not marked when locators respond to your MT 811 request, since they are the owner’s responsibility. Let's take a look at some common types of private underground facilities.
Energy-related private facilities include:
2. Natural Gas can fuel grills, pool heaters, yard lights, or heaters in outbuildings like sheds, garages, and barns. Natural gas may travel through a “master meter” to a residential building. As a general rule, natural gas facility operators will mark underground gas lines only from the main to the meter, making the lines on the “other side” of the meter a private facility.
3. Electricity can also be supplied to a “master meter” to power multi-resident properties, such as trailer parks, town homes, or apartment complexes. These lines may connect outbuildings like garages, sheds, and barns to a source of power. Remember that the electric operators usually only mark the power lines up to the meter.
4. Farm Taps are private natural gas lines. All the equipment from the outlet of the meter (usually, but not always, located near the pipeline) to the house, corn dryer, milk house, or barn belongs to the landowner and will not be located. Farm taps support many farms, and as farms have expanded, adding more houses and buildings to the original farmstead, private lines attached to a single tap have increased in number.
Some other types of private facility lines are underground sprinkler systems, data communications cables, fiber optic lines, septic systems, and waste collection lines, among others. In agricultural settings, drain tile and irrigation lines are often buried.
If you are installing private facilities, consider doing the following:
• Prepare maps of any new facilities.
• Bury tracer wire with the new facilities.
• Use above ground markers or signs to indicate the buried facilities.
If you are a land-owner or a professional excavator digging on private property, there is a good chance that there are private facilities in your work area. Protect yourself by investing the time necessary to determine if there are private utility lines buried in your area of excavation. Look for above-ground warning signs such as a “master meter” or “farm tap” and any former colored marks or flags and contact whomever installed the lines to determine if any current records or maps exist of the area. Remember that a good excavator is also a mindful detective and investigator!
*You or the owner of the property may have to contact a private locator to get these lines marked. Click here for a list of private Montana locators: http://www.montana811.org/private-locators.html
By: Lareina Taing
After filing a locate request with Montana 811, make sure to wait two full business days to get your underground utilities marked before you break ground. After the standard waiting period has passed, remember to check the status of your locate ticket by going to www.montana811.org and clicking on the white button named “Search and Status of a Montana Locate Ticket.” If all affected facility operators have responded, what’s next? You should dig using hand tools, vacuum excavation, or a non-invasive excavation method within the “tolerance zone”, the 18” area on either side of an underground utility plus the width of the utility itself.
Because location markings are approximate, the exact position of buried lines may vary from the marks. That’s why excavators should maintain a minimum horizontal (side to side) clearance of 18 inches between an unexposed facility and the cutting edge or point of any power-operated excavating or earthmoving equipment. For example, if the markings indicate a 20” pipe is buried and the minimum clearance is 18” on both sides of the facility, the entire tolerance zone is 56” wide (18” + 20” + 18”). See below for a visual example of the tolerance zone.
Remember that the depth of an underground facility may vary due to installation practices, frost, erosion, and other factors. Any depth readings given by a locator, if given at all, are only estimates, and the excavator is still responsible to safely expose the facility without damage.
Careful digging within the tolerance zone is an important step in the damage prevention process. Protect yourself, loved ones, and the environment by always hand digging or practicing non-invasive excavation methods in the tolerance zone. By doing so, you will have peace of mind knowing that you’re helping to protect vital underground infrastructure!
By: Lareina Taing, Marketing Communications Specialist
With over 58 million acres of farm land in Montana1, you’ve probably seen signs of the annual fall harvest. With thousands of miles of underground pipeline in the state, it’s nearly inevitable that underground pipelines will run through or near farm land. Erosion, frost, root system growth, and other factors, will change the depth and position of utility lines. These facilities can be buried just a few inches below the surface, so even small excavating projects can result in damages. Exercise caution and prevent damages by always following the safe digging process for all agricultural excavations.
Remember that private underground lines you may own such as farm taps and geothermal loops are not marked by utility companies. Protect yourself and invest some time to determine if there are private utility lines buried in the area of excavation. If so, you may have to contact a private locator to get them marked. Stay safe and “click or call” MT 811 before you begin harvesting this year!
1Source: Farmland Information Center. Click here for more details. (https://www.farmlandinfo.org/statistics/montana )
By: Lareina Taing
Education is the key to locator success. Founded in 1999, Staking University (Staking U) established the first year-round training program to educate and certify locators on locating equipment and best practices. Contacting Montana 811 (MT 811) to get utilities located is the first important step in the safe digging process, making it essential for locators to learn how to provide complete and accurate locate information.
On September 19-20, 2018, Staking U will host a Locator Certification Seminar (LCS) at North Western Energy in Billings, MT. The LCS will include classroom and outdoor presentations intended to teach Montana locators:
Click here for a complete LCS class syllabus. (link here with http://www.locatingunlimited.com/PDFs/LCS_Outline.pdf )
The Staking U campus is located in Manteno, IL, where it hosts 22, 5-day Campus Classes and six, 2-day Locator Certification Seminars (LCSs) every year. In addition to hosting classes in Manteno, Staking U conducts approximately 25 LCSs off-site. Different utilities, one-call centers, and municipalities across the nation host these off-site classes. Staking U also teaches customized onsite trainings at their customer’s locations. Their customers range from distribution utility companies to military bases and government agencies.
Due to the hands-on nature of these courses, Staking U recommends smaller class sizes of 10 to 15 students for a personalized experience. Participants have the opportunity to locate various types of utilities by using up to 15 different brands of instruments, which broadens their equipment expertise.
North Western Energy
1944 Monad Dr.
Billings, MT 59102
Class runs from 8:30am-4pm
$695 per person
411 South Evergreen St.
Manteno, IL 60950
During past LCS courses, I’ve gathered insight from two Staking U Instructors on why attending this educational opportunity is beneficial for all locators. Paul Larkin, a Staking U Course Instructor, has worked in the locating industry for over 20 years. Paul has worked for Staking U for over 12 years. He believes that it is important for locators to attend an LCS because “knowledge is the key to damage prevention. [Locators] have to be able to understand the instrument and what it's trying to tell them. In other words, they need to know how to differentiate good (accurate) information from bad (inaccurate) information.”
Since 2013, John Foster has been an Instructor for Staking U at their Hemet, CA campus. He has over 30 years of experience in pipeline construction and underground pipe and cable locating, including work in the U.S. and abroad. As an experienced professional in the field, he believes that “it's important for locators to receive this training to understand field work and the theory of electromagnetic locating. Many locators only receive limited training from their company or from the sale representatives. When you learn that different frequencies will do different things, where to apply the knowledge you receive, and how to be certain of accurate markings, this can truly boost the confidence of the locator.”
It is often said that locating is not a science but is instead an art. Developing an understanding of locating equipment and the information it provides is essential to mastering that art. That’s not the whole picture, however, because damage prevention is a shared responsibility. We all have to do our part to keep everyone safe and underground lines in service. That’s why it’s so important to contact MT 811, so that we can notify the affected facility operators, and they can dispatch their locators to mark your utility lines before you dig!
To learn more about Staking U, click here. (link here with http://locatingunlimited.com/ )
By: Lareina Taing
Planning on starting a garden over Labor Day? Want to install an outdoor fire pit on Thanksgiving? Keep in mind that after filing a locate request with Montana 811 (MT811), you must wait two full business days, excluding weekends and holidays, before you begin digging. The day you call DOES NOT count towards the standard two-day notice. Plan ahead when digging over a holiday, since you will need to wait additional time for the underground utilities to get marked in your proposed digging area. When a holiday listed occurs on a Saturday, the preceding Friday is not considered a business day. When a holiday listed occurs on a Sunday, the following Monday is not considered a business day. See the graphic below for the list of holidays that MT811 observes.
Labor Day will fall on a Monday, so if you call on the Friday prior to the holiday, the Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday will not count towards the standard two full business day notice. Tuesday and Wednesday will be the actual waiting period for the locate request, so digging can commence on Thursday. If you plan to dig over this holiday, make sure to “tap, click, or call” at the very latest on the prior Wednesday, so that you can officially start digging on Saturday.
MT811 is open 24/7, 365 days a year, so they will take locate request tickets on holidays and weekends, but keep in mind that the day of the call will not count due to the holiday, so the next day will be considered as the day of the call. For example, if you decide to file a ticket on Labor Day that falls on a Monday, Tuesday will be registered as the first day, so it will not count. Wednesday and Thursday will count towards your waiting period, so the first day digging can begin is Friday. See below for a visual example of the waiting period timeline. Keep in mind that holidays will alter the waiting period as indicated in the examples above.
Remember to always check the status of the underground utility markings before beginning work to make sure that all affected utility companies have responded to the ticket. When you check the status of your ticket prior to digging, you will have the peace of mind knowing whether it is safe to break ground. Buried utilities are located everywhere and can be located near the surface. Don’t take your chances by not checking the status of your ticket. It’s easy! Look for your ticket by clicking the grey “Search and Status” button on the MT811 website home page here: http://www.montana811.org/
Prepare your plans to dig ahead of time to avoid any disruptions and additional waiting time. Stay safe and always “tap, click, or call” before all digging projects, large and small!
By: Lareina Taing
School is out and warm weather is here! Kids love digging outside, whether to make mud pies or to dig for treasure, so it’s never too soon to teach them about 811. The lesson of underground utility safety should begin early. Elementary age youth are more impressionable and “rule embracing” than students entering upper grades. Teaching young children about 811 provides an opportunity to influence attitudes and behaviors while they are still being formed.
Educational tools and resources are available for the next generation of diggers to start learning today. The Common Ground Alliance (CGA), an organization dedicated to protecting underground utility lines and the safety of people who dig near them, has created a variety of kid-friendly educational materials to help teach youth about the 811 message and why it’s so important.
The CGA created an 811-themed pirate video and supporting tools to provide kids with a fun introduction to 811 and the importance of protecting our resources below ground. The toolkit can be directly downloaded from their website, or the video can be found on YouTube here: https://bit.ly/2sfMnk1
The CGA also created a Community Service Award that recognizes young adults from organizations such as Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, 4-H, FFA, etc. for following safe digging practices when they conduct a community service project that involves putting shovels in the ground. The Community Service Award overview document includes helpful information including how to contact local 811 organizations, ordering materials, and awarding recipients, which can be downloaded here: https://bit.ly/2rLeXKg For the complete list of kid’s safety tools available via the CGA, click here: https://bit.ly/2rMWQ6K
Another great 811 resource for kids is “The Adventures of Burnie & Earl” collection of educational tools, which follows best buds Burnie, a natural gas flame, and Earl, an oil drop, on their encounters with the petroleum industry. Through their adventures, Burnie and Earl entertain and educate the public about safety, friendship, and having fun. Burnie is a carefree character who jumps head first into projects. Earl is more cautious. He supplies the voice of reason and is always eager to tame a situation. Earl often finds himself telling Burnie, "You've got to follow the rules!"
Burnie and Earl have an educational coloring book, an 811-activity app, and a “Dig It” music video that all help to educate youth about underground utility damage prevention. The coloring book contains games, coloring, and fact sheets, while the app allows users to help Burnie and Earl build their dream pool with two interactive, educational games. There is a utility flag game, which allows you to experience what it’s like to be a professional locator and a card matching game that tests kids on what the color-coded flags placed in the ground represent. All three educational resources can be found here: http://www.burnieandearl.com/
Take a moment to educate a child on the 811 message. Kids who understand the importance of safe digging are better prepared to make critical decisions that will help ensure the protection of Montana’s underground infrastructure for years to come!
An 811 Activity Coloring Book is also available for download on the Montana 811 website: https://bit.ly/2J04chX
By: Lareina Taing, Marketing Communications Specialist
The busy digging season is underway! Montana 811 (MT811) reminds everyone of these important points as they consider starting any outdoor digging projects:
1. Chances are, you’ve heard the MT811 “Tap, Click, or Call Before You Dig” message and already know that preventing underground utility damage is free and easy. Did you also know that it’s the law?
The Montana Excavation Law, Montana Code Annotated Section 69-4-503, states “Before beginning an excavation, the excavator shall notify, through a notification center, all owners of underground facilities in the area of the proposed excavation.”
For full text versions of the law, click here: https://bit.ly/2IeUjwa
2. Before you contact MT811, remember to outline your proposed excavation area with white paint or flags. By doing so, you decrease your chances of delayed locates and potential errors. When the utility companies mark their lines, you have the peace of mind of knowing if your project plan conflicts with the location of buried lines.
3. You may contact MT811 up to 10 days in advance of your project start date. Your ticket will remain valid for 30 days after the stated start time. After that time passes, you must contact MT811 to update your ticket and get lines remarked.
4. Private facilities are NOT marked when you contact MT811. Unless the owner of the facilities participates as a member of MT811, privately or customer-owned facilities will not be notified or marked. These types of facilities can be found everywhere. Examples include private water systems, data communication lines, underground sprinkler systems, gas or propane distribution lines, and many others. Protect yourself and invest some time to determine if there are private utility lines buried in the area of excavation. If so, you may have to contact a private locator to get them marked.
5. File a locate request online or call MT811 at least two business days in advance, excluding weekends or holidays, before digging. Always check the accuracy and completeness of your description. Make sure to include the specific type of excavating you are doing on your request.
Homeowners and excavators can file online locate requests 24/7 via ITIC on your phone/computer here: http://www.montana811.org/
You can also call us at 811 or 800-424-5555 to file a locate request in all of Montana except for the Flathead and Lincoln counties. (Important Note: There is no hold time when you file a ticket online!)
For locates in the Flathead and Lincoln counties, call 811, 406-755-8344, or 800-551-8344.
6. Always check the status of the underground utility markings before beginning work. Did you know that it’s easy to check the status of your ticket before you excavate? Look for your ticket by clicking the grey “Search and Status” button on the MT811 website home page here: http://www.montana811.org/
7. Respect the marks. Do your best to maintain the paint lines and flags left by locators. Stop excavating and contact MT811 if you can no longer see the marks because they are obscured or destroyed by job site traffic, weather, or other interferences.
8. Be mindful of the tolerance zone when beginning excavation. Hand dig 18” from both sides of the marked utility (see graphic below).
9. Use the proper excavating tools and techniques. This can make all the difference when completing your project. Examples include choosing shovels with durable fiberglass handles and keeping the shovel head perpendicular to the ground when digging.
10. Feel free to contact us with any questions, suggestions, or input you may have!
You can contact Clint Kalfell, the Montana Representative, directly at: 406-442-3070 or clint.kalfell@Montana811.org
With these tips in mind, you are set for a successful excavating season. As always, stay safe and contact MT811 before you plan to dig!
By: Lareina Taing
Spring has arrived, and you know what that means- the beginning of excavating season! April marks an important month for the underground damage prevention industry. Since 2007, the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate have recognized April as National Safe Digging Month (NSDM). This month reminds the public to contact Montana 811 (MT811) at least two business days, excluding weekends and holidays, before any excavation project to prevent any damage to underground utilities, injuries, and the disruption of essential services.
NSDM serves as a reminder that there is a complex underground network of pipelines, wires, and cables buried beneath our feet. As a matter of fact, there are over 20 million miles of underground utilities in the U.S. alone (according to Common Ground Alliance statistics). With the official start of spring, homeowners and professional excavators alike are eager to begin their outdoor excavating projects. Regardless of the size of the project, MT811 encourages everyone to file a locate request every time before breaking the surface of the ground.
MT811 users can enter their tickets through a streamlined web-based ticketing system called ITIC Online Ticket Entry. More excavators choose to use the web instead of the phone to file tickets, so ITIC is now the most popular method to submit locate requests. When using ITIC, MT811 sends you an emailed copy of your completed locate request, along with a list of member utilities notified in your excavation area. Users find they can increase efficiency and save time when they enter tickets using ITIC.
Homeowners, click here to file an online ticket: https://bit.ly/2EiIeAm
Professional excavators, click here to file an online ticket: https://bit.ly/2ymoN7q
MT811 takes this opportunity to remind everyone that damage prevention is a shared responsibility, so make sure you do your part. Our thanks to everyone who takes the initial step towards safe excavation by contacting MT811 before they dig. Have a safe and wonderful National Safe Digging Month!
Check out the MT811 event calendar for upcoming excavator/utility company trainings and 811 events here: http://www.montana811.org/calendar-of-events.html
If you would like to contact us, register for a class or event, or ask a question, fill out the form here: http://www.montana811.org/contact-us.html
You can also contact Clint Kalfell, the Montana Representative, directly at:
406-442-3070 or clint.kalfell@Montana811.org
By: Lareina Taing
At some point in time, you’ve probably noticed small colored flags placed in your yard or around town. Sometimes the ground is also marked with different colors of paint. If you have these flags and paint in your yard, it means that someone in the area is planning to dig, and they have contacted Montana 811 to file a locate request. When someone files a locate request with Montana 811, we notify the facility operators who have underground utilities in the proposed excavation area. These facility operators dispatch locators to the site who mark the location of utilities with different colored flags and paint that correspond to specific utility types.
What do the different colors mean? The American Public Works Association (APWA) has developed a color code for marking underground utilities, so it’s easy to immediately identify any utilities in the proposed excavation area. Here’s a key to the utility colors:
It’s crucial to preserve and maintain the location of flags and paint. Obscured or displaced markings may lead to accidental damage. If you plan to dig, contact Montana 811 two full business days before you begin, excluding weekends and holidays. Contacting Montana 811 helps to prevent damage to underground utilities, injuries, and the disruption of essential services. Remember that filing a locate request is free, easy, and the law!
By: Lareina Taing
Montana 811 would like to remind all facility operators to update and confirm their notification areas for their respective utility companies. Take some time early in 2018 to verify that all your company’s information in the Montana 811 system is up-to-date. Making sure your notification area database coverage and company contact information is correct will help prevent damages to your organization’s underground infrastructure.
Facility operators can use IMAP, an easy-to-use online database management application, to manage their notification area databases. Users can view, add, modify, and delete active notification polygons with this tool. Available 24/7, facility operators can use IMAP to effectively and efficiently manage their company’s notification information.
Need a visual example of how IMAP works? See the graphic below.
Montana 811 strives to offer streamlined technology to all stakeholders in the damage prevention industry. Together, we can reduce the number of underground damages that occur on a day-to-day basis. For any additional questions or comments about IMAP, please contact Clint Kalfell by calling 406-442-3070 or emailing clint.kalfell@Montana811.org.
Click here for additional IMAP training resources (training videos and the IMAP manual): http://bit.ly/2nAkOzW