DeBARY, FL–(HISPANIC PR WIRE)–March 19, 2003–This spring, thousands of Florida residents will head to their yards, armed with shovels, unknowingly placing their safety at risk by digging where it’s not safe to dig. As part of its “Call before you dig” educational campaign, Sunshine State One-Call of Florida, Inc. (SSOCOF) will target these weekend yard warriors March 30 – April 5, 2003, which was officially proclaimed Dig Safely Week by Gov. Jeb Bush.

In Florida, it’s the law for homeowners to call 1-800-432-4770 two full business days before digging in any easement, right of way or permitted use area; and contractors are required to call in every job that involves digging or disturbing the earth’s surface. The purpose of the call is to have buried utility lines located and marked with color-coded paint, flags or stakes. Typical home improvement projects that may require a call range from installing a fence or sprinkler system to planting trees or shrubs.

“The damages from digging blindly for these home improvement projects can range from something as minor as a broken cable TV line,” explains Cheryl Ritter, Damage Prevention manager for SSOCOF, “to serious injury or loss of life from a cut electrical or gas line. And if a major buried communications line is cut, 911 service may not be available to those who need it and our police officers or other emergency responders may not be able to get the information they need to keep themselves and the general public safe.”

Call before you dig is just the first step of a four-step process aimed at preventing serious injury to excavators and damage to buried utility lines. After calling, utility companies have two full business days to locate and mark the approximate location of buried utility lines. Excavators must then protect the marks so they are visible until the project is complete. When marks are destroyed or removed, the excavator must stop any digging and place another call for locate marks. The final step to safe digging is to use extreme caution when digging within 24-inches on either side of the marks to avoid hitting the buried utility lines.

Failing to call two full business days before digging is punishable by a minimum fine of $250 and the job site being shut down. With expanded provisions in the Underground Facility Damage Prevention and Safety Act, Chapter 556, the chances of being caught and fined are greater than ever as police and code enforcement officers can write citations for this offense.

SSOCOF is the communications link between the owners of buried utility lines and excavators. It is a not-for-profit corporation supported by its membership-those companies that own or operate underground facilities. Established in 1993, SSOCOF represents over 750 member companies that benefit from their participation through a reduction in lost time accidents, service interruptions and costly repairs.

Public education is key to communicating the important message, “Call before you dig.” SSOCOF offers free safety talks on the subject. Please visit http://www.callsunshine.com for more information.



Sunshine State One Call

Cheryl Ritter, (954) 389-7328