PA One Call, Pennsylvania 811, Act 287. The program has several names but one main purpose – to prevent you from hitting an underground utility line during construction activities. You might be thinking it’s no big deal if a cable TV line gets cut, but I think we can all imagine how bad it could be if you put a shovel through a 16” gas pipeline. If you check the PA One Call website, they define themselves as “a service company dedicated to minimizing utility service interruptions, reducing on-the-job injuries and deaths, promoting a higher level of public safety and protecting the environment.” The program was developed in 1972 and over the years it has evolved from phone, to phone & fax, to the current phone & online (web ticket) system. The advancing technology has really helped the program grow. In the first year of the program only 389 location requests were submitted. In 2019, the PA One Call system responded to 1,037,463 location requests, which works out to over 2,800 requests a day, or just about 2 requests every minute.

The program started out with a simple concept – call before you dig. A phone service was set up and linked to utility companies. If you were digging in an area, you call the number and let them know where you are. The program will then contact local utility companies to see if they have any service lines in the project area. If the utility company has service lines in your project area, they will provide you with location information. If your project is in the design phase often times you will receive copies of plans indicating the location of the utility lines. If you are actively digging, the utility company has 72 hours to field locate their underground utilities, usually with paint or flags. The PA One Call system also provides contact information for utilities in the area even if they are not currently located on site. It is a great point of contact if you need to extend public utilities to your project.

The PA One Call system has tremendously improved our ability to see potential utility conflicts before they happen and plan around them before construction begins. As civil engineers, this is a helpful tool in our world of design. Don’t hesitate to reach out to DLH for all your design needs, and don’t forget to call before you dig!