A 30-foot-high shovel went on display at a Woodland Hills fire station Friday as part of a campaign urging residents to dial 811 before doing any digging so authorities can ensure there are no underground utility lines at risk of being damaged.
“About 60 percent of pipeline damage due to digging is caused by homeowners or contractors who do not call 811 before they dig,” said Jimmie Cho, Southern California Gas Co. vice president of gas operations and system integrity. “They have no idea where buried pipelines may be, and that’s not safe.
By contrast, when people do call 811, there is a 99.9 percent chance no damage will occur to a buried pipeline or other utility, which means most of these accidental dig-ins are preventable,” he said.
SoCalGas officials said there were 3,000 cases of accidental damage to its underground gas lines last year caused by digging.
The 30-foot-tall shovel, billed as one of the biggest in the country, was displayed at an LAFD station to mark National 811 Day, aimed at raising awareness of the hotline that alerts utility companies to upcoming digging projects and allows them to send representatives to mark the location of underground lines.
The shovel will be moved to various locations in coming months to continue spreading the message.
“Pipelines can be located anywhere — under streets, sidewalks and private property,” said LAFD Deputy Chief Trevor Richmond of the Valley Operations Bureau. “And hitting one while digging, planting or doing demolition work can not only cause property damage and loss of utility service, it can cause serious injury.”
Among those taking part in the Friday morning event were two Gas Co. employees who were recently honored for helping to save the lives of a Woodland Hills couple whose home exploded due to a gas line that had been ruptured by a plumber who had done some work at the home, according to SoCalGas.
Jeff Catton, a Gas Co. energy technician, and Hector Rocha, a SoCalGas customer service rep, were honored last month by county Supervisors Kathryn Barger and Sheila Kuehl for their actions getting the couple out of the house after they reported a possible gas leak on June 20. The couple’s home in the 4900 block of Marmol Drive exploded in flames a short time later.
In other news, a water main break interrupted service to 20 people in Hollywood.