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