Atmos Energy wants to protect you and your property and protect our buried utility infrastructure by promoting safe digging practices.

Leticia Y. Saenz, the manager of public affairs at Atmos Energy, joined Studio 512 Co-Host Rosie Newberry to give us the 411 about 811.

8-1-1…How does that work?

“Every digging project requires a call to 811. In Texas, it is the law! 811 can be called from anywhere in the country or you can submit online. A representative from your local one-call center, which is Texas 811, will answer the call to find out the location and description of the digging site. The affected utility companies will be notified of the intent to dig. The utility companies will each send a professional locator to the digging site to identify and mark the approximate location of the underground lines.”

“You must call at least 48 hours prior to the planned project to give the representative time to mark the utility lines. Any asset that you have installed below ground, such as a sprinkler system will not be marked. You must contact a plumber to locate and mark those. Once lines have been marked, (make sure you wait at least two days to give all utilities time to mark lines) you should respect the marks and dig carefully around them.”

What projects require a call?

“Lines need to be marked for each separate project, large or small, such as installing a standing mailbox, putting up a fence, planting trees or building a deck, or forming a foundation. Even if you’ve hired a contractor, make sure the contractor calls 811 to have lines marked.”

“If you do not contact 811 before digging, it is quite possible that you will dig into a buried underground utility and potentially create a life-threatening situation, you can be fined, or even cause an outage to an essential utility service. Even if you have used the service before and you think you know where the underground utilities are, you need to contact 811 before every digging project to protect yourself. Remember, it is a free service!”

“Every six minutes an underground utility line is damaged because someone decided to dig without first calling 811. The possible consequences of hitting an underground utility line while digging can cause serious injuries, disrupt service to entire neighborhoods, and potentially result in fines and repair costs. Even if the pipeline does not appear broken or leaking after it is hit, immediately report the accident to the pipeline company so that the damage can be inspected and repaired if needed. A scratch, scrape, or ding of a pipeline, if not promptly repaired, could, over time, result in a future leak or emergency.”

What if I have not been digging or I just happen by, how would I recognize a leak?

“There are several potential signs of a leaking pipeline including the smell of any unusual odors, gas, or petroleum or you might hear a hissing noise. Other clues might be bubbling earth or water or vegetation that appears dead or dying or a colorful sheen on the water. More obvious signs would be dirt being blown into the air, a frost ball in an open field, or a flame coming from the ground. If you see any of these signs, don’t go near them and don’t ignore them. You and all persons in the household should leave the area immediately and call 9-1-1 or your pipeline company.”

“Remember, if you think you’ve discovered a leak, leave the area immediately and, if possible, move upwind of the leak. If the leak is inside, move outside. Do not turn on or off electrical devices, appliances, or switches or start an engine, a car or truck, or light a cigarette or cigar. These are all sources of possible ignition. After finding a secure place, call 911 and the local natural gas or Pipeline Company or 911 immediately.”

“Even though pipelines are the safest, most cost-effective and environment-friendly way to move natural gas and petroleum products, and are maintained and monitored day and night, occasionally they can leak. A unique quality of natural gas is that it is naturally odorless so to make detection easier, pipeline operators odorize it to have a distinct smell, like a rotten egg or sulfur. If you smell that smell, remember to leave the area immediately and call 911 or the utility or pipeline company.”

Learn more about how Atmos Energy is fueling our energy future and get more information about “811 Call Before You Dig” by going to

This segment is paid for by Atmos Energy and is intended as an advertisement. Opinions expressed by the guest(s) on this program are solely those of the guest(s) and are not endorsed by this television station.