Clarence Upshaw: Don’t forget to call 811 before you start digging

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 30, 2023

“I thought I was in the clear.”


emorseful words from a homeowner after attempting to install a new mailbox but unexpectedly creating a natural gas emergency. While digging into an existing hole for a mailbox post, his shovel severed a natural gas pipeline and seventy pounds of pressurized natural gas poured out.

I arrived at the scene after he called 911 and assessed the damage. It was quickly evident that a team of technicians was needed to repair the damaged pipeline, safely and quickly. The homeowner watched the crew work for hours thankful to be safe, but disappointed the emergency wasn’t avoided by simply calling 811.

Every year, Piedmont Natural Gas responds to thousands of natural gas emergencies caused by excavating projects damaging underground pipelines. In 2022, Piedmont reported over 2,700 cuts to natural gas lines in North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. The majority of these could have been avoided with a call to 811.

April is Safe Digging Month, a time dedicated to reminding our friends and neighbors about calling 811 — a free and easy service that prevents injuries, outages and costly repairs by identifying underground utility lines before a landscaping or yard project begins.

I take pride in working for Piedmont Natural Gas and helping keep our customers and communities safe. This Safe Digging Month, I encourage everyone to do their part and call 811 before putting a shovel into the ground. It’s a free call that can save you time, money, and help keep your family and community safe.

Clarence Upshaw works for Piedmont Natural Gas.