Private Utilities: Wait a Minute, they did NOT Locate Everything? Call 811 Before You DIG!

Wait a Minute, they did not Locate Everything?

I would like to say a lot has changed about communication of existing private utilities in the ground since 2010, but in reality, I still get the calls from people trying to inform me that 811 locate responders do not go past the sidewalk or onto private property at all. This is not just from excavators but even more so from homeowners. With all the positive 811 advertising, many individuals believe that if they contact one call all the lines on their property will be located. Sometimes, they get very upset to find out that they must pay for a service they thought was free. “That is how it is advertised!” After a little conversation, most people tend to understand. Here are some of the value-added services a private locator can bring to its client.

For 10 years, WA811 and the Call Center have had a list of private locators on the different websites. I get a lot of calls from this list. It did not cost anything to get added and it generates a fair amount of business.

At times when we get onsite, we are asked if we have plans of the underground utilities on the site. The quick answer is we do not. Even if we did, they are often less than accurate. When a client provides us with plans, I do not rely on those entirely as, in most cases, they are less than accurate. I was on an active new construction site recently with lots of new underground utilities in the ground. They did not have any plans to account for those lines.

Locate equipment has developed for sure. More companies are making multi-frequency pipe and cable locators. There are also rechargeable batteries for units. Some makers have integrated GPS into units. These are all nice additions. I personally do not use the rechargeable batteries or the GPS for the pipe and cable locator currently, but I do see this advancing and creating value-added results for clients. We have GPS integrated on our ground penetrating radar unit and this is a value-add for sure.

We are also adding more damage prevention pre-construction for our clients. We will, at times, verify 811 locates without putting paint on the ground. I always require 811 contact to be completed prior to us showing up onsite. We have a good working relationship with the different 811 responders. If we see no locates or if we question the markings on the ground, we make a call for our client to the locating company responsible for the utility in question. That is again added value by having us onsite.

We do a lot of work for environmental consultants who are not underground utility savvy but require drilling into the ground to determine if contamination exists. We are there to help them reduce their risk. I was on a site a couple of months ago and the client said, “I always learn about underground utilities when we are on site together.” That was great to hear.

I, too, am always learning, even after 28 years. My three-year-old daughter is a backseat driver, asking me, “Are we going this way?” Underground utilities are a lot like her – as soon as you think it is going in a particular direction, it diverts on you. That is why, with knowledge, you let the equipment do the work.

Kemp Garcia is Business Development Manager with Linescape of WA, LLC. He can be reached at kemp@

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