Come Get Your Flags

Picture of DPC of TExas

DPC of TExas

As with any construction related project, there are a few “misconceptions” that arise with locating services. Today, we are going to discuss a few of these in order to help you better understand the process when calling 811.

First, Texas811 does not actually come out and locate utilities. Texas811 is the call center that takes your request for utility locates, determines which utilities may be in conflict with your job, and then sends your request to those utility operators who will determine if they need to visit the site to locate. And, while most utility operators participate in the One Call system, they will only locate the segments of the underground facility that they own and maintain which typically terminates at the water/gas/electric meter, electrical transformer, or communications pedestal. Any pipes or cables beyond this “point of delivery” are customer-owned facilities which are the responsibility of the homeowner and will not be marked by the locator. This can be problematic for the person doing the digging since the potential hazard of damaging the underground facility still exists.

Second, it may take multiple locate companies to complete the locating. Not all utilities use the same locating service, some have their own in-house locators while others use a third-party. So, don’t start digging just because you see a couple of flags in the ground.

Third, there may be multiple flags of the same color for different gas, telecommunications or electrical lines. You may have three sets of one color of flags because you have AT&T, Spectrum and Google all running through your project area. This can create confusion when calling to ensure that all utilities have been marked before breaking ground.

Fourth, locators do not come back and pick up their flags or clean up the paint on the grass after the construction job is done. You can simply collect those flags and trash them.

Fifth, a locator’s job is not easy. Locators typically manage multiple locate requests in one day. From large projects to smaller projects, they work long hours with some jobs requiring multiple line marks for the same utility company. Please practice patience as they mark the utilities in your project area.

Sixth, locate techs cannot change the scope of a job after a phone call or even an in-person conversation. The techs require a signed document and/or email that acknowledges and confirms that both parties agree to the change in scope or due date/time of the request.

There can also be a breakdown of communication between the contractor and the locate techs. Both parties can sometimes be difficult to get on the phone to clarify the scope of the project. White lining your project area before calling 811 will help reduce the time spent clarifying the scope of a project.

If you are having a contractor dig a pool, put in a new fence or install a sprinkler system, it is safe to assume that a locating service will be arriving at your property to mark the utilities. This is part of the safe digging process. Do not be alarmed and allow them to do their work, it could save time, a life and your property.

Marcus Ogas

Distribution Construction Coordinator III, Austin Energy

John Reid

Distribution Construction Coordinator Lead, Austin Energy

Jennifer Pratt

Program Manager, DPC of Texas