Test your build site for underground utilities

The United States has a vast underground infrastructure of pipelines, conduits, wires and cables that are critical to our way of life. This infrastructure provides the nation with crude oil and refined petroleum products, natural gas, telecommunications, electricity, water, sewage, cable TV and other vital products and services. In addition to the immediate danger to individuals doing the digging of hitting a power line or other utility, the disruption to service of any of these underground facilities could affect the safety of the larger public or the environment. Before digging or building on any site, the area must be marked for underground utilities.

Because we need to know where underground utilities are located in order to design the playground and place the posts in areas where it is safe to dig, the utility check should be done within two weeks of your Design Day. Most utility check mapping services expire after a period of 10 to 14 days, which would be before the construction actually begins; but this window can be extended by calling the facility that did the utility check before the validity period closes. If this is not permitted in your area, you should have the utility check done again about a week before the Build Day so that you have the proper permission for the construction to begin.

Having the underground utilities on your site mapped out is a free service in all states. Call your local hotline (see the resources section to find listings by state) and they will send out a representative to map the utilities within 48 hours. They will also give you a certificate allowing you to excavate the site in areas where you will not risk hitting utilities. This certificate will have an expiration date, which you should make sure to extend through the actual Build Day.

If the land is privately owned, the free utility check will not cover utilities that run from the street to any buildings that are in and around the site. The blueprint or site plan of the area should include any underground utilities. These utilities need to be marked. If you suspect that there are underground utilities that run through the site, but are not listed on the site blueprint or plan, an independent contractor needs to come out and check to see where the utility lines are and mark them.

What if the utility check finds underground utilities on the build site?

Map it out:
The utility check representative will map out the exact location of the utilities, and your team should be able to work with the equipment vendor to make sure that anything that requires digging will be designed to avoid these utilities.

Resources for additional questions

A federally-mandated national ""Call Before You Dig"" number, 811 was created to help protect you from unintentionally hitting underground utility lines while working on digging projects.