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Call Miss Utility – Call Who & Why?

Authored by attorney George Nicholos

Prior to excavating on any construction site or most anywhere – Call Miss Utility first!  We have heard the line and seen the words countless times, but what or who exactly is Miss Utility?  And what is the big deal about giving her a call?

Miss Utility of Virginia is a free call center or information exchange for excavators, contractors and property owners planning any excavation or demolition work. Miss Utility doesn’t actually mark the utilities, but coordinates or notifies member utilities and institutions who in turn send out their respective crews to locate and identify various utilities using a standardized color coded marking system. However, once the markings are made care is still required to physically locate the marked utilities as the markings don’t identify the depth of utilities and can deviate as much as two feet horizontally from the actual location of the surface markings.

The name Miss Utility comes from the original advertising campaign in 1971 which rang – “To miss the utilities, call “Miss Utility,” before you dig.” The program was enacted by the Virginia General Assembly to benefit various stakeholders such as utility companies, contractors, excavators and the general public through the prevention of damage to underground utilities. The Underground Utility Damage Prevention Act, sometimes referred to as the “Miss Utility Law” can be found in Title 56 – Chapter 10.3 of the Code of Virginia. The Act also contains Rules which clarifies and further defines the standards. Both the Act and Rules are enforced by the State Corporation Commission and apply to all stakeholders.

To minimize damage to property and the loss of life, stakeholders should always call before digging. In fact, under section 56-265.17 of the Code of Virginia, no person shall make or begin any excavation or demolition without first notifying the notification center for the project area. In fact, failure to do so not only exposes the violator to heightened liabilities and possible catastrophic results, but may also be fined punitive damages in addition to actual damages in an amount up to $10,000 per single cause of action.

So before you dig – Call Miss Utility!  Dial 811 in Virginia or visit http://va811.com/.


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