New Jersey law requires contractors, excavators, utility workers and homeowners to "call before you dig." And that includes even if you plan to dig just a few inches to install a mailbox or a small flower bed.

Joseph Fiordaliso, president of the state Board of Public Utilities, said there are a lot of things that are underground. One thing that scares him the most are the gas lines.

If a person digs and accidentally hits a gas line, there could be an explosion, which has happened before in New Jersey with deadly consequences. It could also knock out power — and lead to fines.

Utility lines are sometimes buried less than a foot underneath your feet.

New Jersey's 811 call-before-you-dig hotline will send out a worker to mark the ground where a gas line is buried.

"New Jersey has one of the strongest, safest underground damage prevention programs in the nation, and we intend to keep it that way with the public's support," said Fiordaliso.

A national survey conducted last month by Common Ground Alliance points out that 40% of homeowners who plan to dig this year will put themselves and others at risk by not calling 811 before starting.

Excavations are the leading cause of damage to underground infrastructure. In CGA's survey, homeowners' most popular planned digging projects include planting a tree or shrub, building a patio or deck, building a fence and installing a mailbox.

Fiordaliso said it's always best to err on the side of caution before digging so call the gas company. The One Call Center is open 24/7. The law requires anyone who plans to dig to provide at least three business days' notice before excavation.

The New Jersey One Call Center receives nearly 750,000 calls each year resulting in over 3 million "mark outs" in which the location of an underground facility is marked by a flag or another symbol.

Visit www.call811.com for more information.

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