Teeing Up to Prevent Potential Utility Problems

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DORRANCE TOWNSHIP--- We all know that 911 is the number to call when you have an emergency, but 811 is the number contractors call to prevent an emergency during a digging project.

The first 811 Golf Classic teed off Monday morning at Blue Ridge Trail Golf Club. Although a lot of the action happened on the course, the thought behind it was to know what is below.

"The national number for no one call damages is about one in four. So about 25 percent of the time it's a damage occurring and nobody called 811, as simple as it is," Eric Swartley of UGI Utilities said.

811 is a service that contractors can use to find out whether there are any types of underground utility lines on a property before they begin a project.

Shane Ellis, a safety director for Leeward Construction in Honesdale, said it is essential to call ahead.

"You can't guess in this game, you never know what's under the ground and we try to do the best we can to establish what is under the ground and within the certain guidelines," Ellis said.

Part of the reason why the event was being held in Dorrance Township is that Luzerne and Lackawanna counties have some of the highest rates of damages of all the 45 counties UGI covers.

One of those incidents happened in January of this year when a contractor hit a gas line while working on Chester Street in Kingston.

"When you call in you should be safe. Everything should be marked out and within days you could be able to dig," District Manager for Miller Pipeline, Steve Kasmin said.

In addition to learning more about safe digging practices, all of the money from the event is going to Aaron Kreitzer Fund. He's a senior in high school in the Greater Nanticoke Area who is fighting leukemia.

"He's had some major surgery on his throat, so this is a great opportunity for us to give back, not only for the safety message but for the local community as well," Jordan Partlow of UGI Utilities said.

If you see someone who is digging without lines indicating underground utilities, you can call 811 and potentially prevent a problem.

"We can stop that excavation from happening and potentially save a property, save a life," Swartley said.

Organizers already have plans for next year's event.

For more information about 811 and its services, click here.

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