Power outages caused by dig-ins increase in Yakima Valley - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Power outages caused by dig-ins increase in Yakima Valley

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YAKIMA, WA - Power outages caused by customers or contractors accidentally damaging underground electrical lines are on the upswing in the Yakima Valley. No injuries have occurred but the number of instances is growing and causing concern that proper precautions are not being taken.

Pacific Power urges customers to protect themselves and their families and change this alarming statistic with one simple act: dialing 8-1-1 two days before doing any digging.

Through mid-May, there have been 12 dig-ins in the Yakima Valley and seven of them have caused power outages. That is ahead of the pace set in 2016 when 28 damaging dig-ins were reported. In 2015, there were 20 in the area. There are usually more dig-ins during summer construction season than other times of the year so 12 by mid-May is an upswing.

"Even one dig-in is too much since they are all preventable," said Toby Freeman, regional business manager. "Installing a mail box or post for a deck or planting a tree are among the many commonplace projects that should trigger a call to 8-1-1. Those may seem like simple, harmless maintenance projects, but the hazards are very real. If you hit a buried electric line, you could die. It's that simple."

PacifiCorp has approximately 20,000 miles of underground cable in the West. There are nearly 20 million miles of underground utility lines in the United States. These buried facilities, including gas, water, sewer, cable TV, high-speed Internet, landline telephone, provide the services Americans depend on for their basic everyday needs. But if you don't know where they are buried before you dig, you are in danger. Even if you are lucky enough to not be harmed, you could be responsible for causing a service outage in your neighborhood--and potentially be responsible for the substantial repair costs.

In Yakima, those found responsible for a dig-in last year were liable for an average amount of $1,435.

If you are planning a job that requires digging, even if hiring a professional, a call to 8-1-1 is required before work begins. The 8-1-1 service is free and couldn't be easier. It's a Federal Communications Commission-designated national one-call number that connects a caller from anywhere in the country to the appropriate local one-call center. The one-call center then alerts local underground facility owners so they can mark the approximate location of their lines with paint or flags.

Although the Call Before You Dig system has been active for many years, according to a recent national survey, 45 percent -- nearly half of people who plan to dig this year will not call 8-1-1 first.

To learn more about electrical safety or to order free electrical safety materials, visit //pacificpower.net/safety.