Next time you begin your plans for additions to your home landscape, remember to include Iowa's "One Call" system into your planting schedule.
One Call is the toll-free Iowa number-a nonprofit service funded by fees from Iowa utility companies-which enables homeowners to have all their utility lines marked by calling 1-800-292-8989. Within two working days, locations of all the buried utility lines will be marked by the responsible utility companies, ensuring that the digging and planting won't inadvertently sever a utility line.
Gary Bruns, state manager of the One Call service, says that having utility lines marked before digging has been state law since 1993. "We want to ensure that the digging won't pose a danger to those doing it, as well as protecting the services that so many of us depend upon."
Marking utility lines protects consumers from explosions from punctured gas lines, high voltage shocks from buried electrical lines, as well as ensuring that critical service like 911 emergency response isn't interrupted. Those digging without having utility lines marked are liable for any damages excavation may cause.
"Most of our modern utility lines are now buried underground," Bruns says, "and unfortunately, part of human nature is 'out of sight, out of mind'."
Lines are color-coded by utility :
- Red-electrical power lines, cables, conduit, and lighting cables
- Yellow-gas, oil, steam, petroleum, or gaseous materials
- Orange-communication, alarm or signal lines, cables or conduit including cable television
- Blue-water, irrigation, and slurry lines
- Green-storm, drain lines/sewer
- Pink-survey markings
- White-proposed excavation
The actual location of lines may be within 18 inches of the marking, so Bruns says care should be used when digging near the spray-painted lines and colored flags.
The One Call service averages 30,000 to 40,000 calls per month from March through November, and about 8,000 to 10,000 calls during the winter months. Bruns encourages homeowners wishing to do landscape plantings to call during off-peak hours-over the noon hour, before 7 a.m. or after 5 p.m. on weekdays, or on weekends. The service is open 24 hours a day, 365 days per year.
This article originally appeared in the June 6, 1997 issue, p. 85.