The Inside Outside Guys: Mark Before You Dig

By Ken Calverley and Chuck Breidenstein

DETROIT, October 27, 2022 ~ You can hardly blame the guy. He and his wife had moved into their new home two years ago. All efforts to find a good contractor to build that side yard deck had proved fruitless and the township claimed a three-week process for permitting.

So, in early June he rounded up some friends and rented some equipment for a weekend “deck raising” party.

Early Saturday morning they staked out the post locations and began augering 4-foot-deep holes for the deck supports.

On the third hole, about 15 feet out from the house, they struck a ¾-inch gas line. Fortune was smiling on them as the escaping gas did not ignite. The incident did cost the couple several thousand dollars and a couple months extended delay on the project.

A 2006 incident proved more serious when a cable technician was driving a steel grounding rod close to a house. The rod encountered a buried gas line, and the resulting explosion took two lives.


Inside Outside Guys ~ October 30, 2022

Such situations are the very reason that a pilot program undertaken in Oakland County in 1970 by five major utilities has become standard practice today.

What we now know as Miss Dig was begun, in part, to “safeguard the public, environment, property and member infrastructure.”

The nonprofit corporation is responsible for taking our calls to 8-1-1 at the Michigan Utility Notification Center and scheduling its 1,700 members to locate underground facilities.

You’ve seen their flags and paint marks indicating various types of buried pipes and conduits, from those carrying natural gas (yellow), to water (blue), sewer (green), electricity (red) and cable/phone lines (orange).

The ground around us is laced with buried infrastructure. Tens of thousands of miles of it from a small pipe running between our home and the street to bring us water, to larger pipes carrying everything from heavy oil to natural gas and more.

This free service is intended to preserve and protect that infrastructure, limit disruptions and save lives.

Anyone anticipating a digging project is required to notify Miss Dig 811 or utilize the website at to schedule a staking.

These are usually completed within three business days, although they can sometimes take longer. Miss Dig will issue your earliest project start date by posting updates on-line. During the peak months of April, May and June, the service may receive an average of 6,000 requests a day.

Digging or excavating operations, under the law, include, but are not limited to, grading, trenching, tiling, digging, drilling, boring, augering, tunneling, scraping, pile driving and more.

You should make certain your excavator or well driller or landscaper have notified Miss Dig prior to beginning any work operations. The stakeout is valid for 21 days from the start date assigned by the service, but contractors are warned to be cautious as flags may get stolen or relocated.

In one incident, neighborhood kids thought it a great prank to move all the flags planted by a service member. Luckily, major damage and personal injury was avoided on that job when the contractor noticed a discrepancy between flag locations and painted marks.

Seasoned contractors know that they are required to cautiously hand dig within 4 feet of marked utilities to expose the line and confirm its location.

If more than 21 days pass from marking or if flags have been moved or stolen, the service will gladly re-mark utility locations.

You may be reading this and nodding in affirmation as you recall that day you were digging in the backyard and accidently severed the buried cable located only six inches beneath your sod. No one was injured and repair was minor, but larger capacity lines can cause huge disruptions when disturbed, not to mention the risk of injury and property damage.

So, the next time you or a contractor are anticipating any type of digging operation, remember Miss Dig 811.

It’s a good practice like those employed by the contractors you’ll find at

For housing advice and more, listen to “The Inside Outside Guys” every Saturday and Sunday on  760 WJR, from 10 a.m. to noon, or contact us at