At South Dakota 811, we don’t just sit around the building waiting for people to dial 811 with a locate request.  We’re a part of our community.

A couple of weeks ago, we were over near Baltic, South Dakota, attending AgPhd.

Along with the South Dakota Pipeline Association, we were talking with farmers about the importance of the “call before you dig” message.

What is AgPhd?   It’s a giant event attracting about 10,000 farmers from around the nation and the world to a one day event to learn about the latest agricultural products and practices to improve crop production.  (You can get more information here:

One thing we were talking about is tiling.  For those who don’t know, tiling is pretty much what it says it is: placement of drain tile below the surface to drain fields of excess water, thereby giving farmers more area to plant crops.  It works by lowering the water table, letting plants more properly develop their root systems.   Drain tiling is not a new technique; descriptions of it exist from 200 BC and the first century AD.

Modern tiling equipment can place drain tile at a depth up to 7 feet deep, so it’s very important for farmers using this technique to make the call to 811 before they begin working their fields.  Just because there’s corn on top, doesn’t mean there isn’t a gas line below.

Here’s a picture of a tiling machine on the left, and drain tile on the right.


Additionally, in South Dakota, if the tile physically enters ditches in the public right of way, the drain tile must be registered with South Dakota One Call.  It costs little to register and can protect this costly investment and future crop damage.

At South Dakota One Call, we stand ready to assist our farmers and ranchers – and homeowners and contractors – every single day of the year.

Just give us a call, or visit our website at

Until next week, safe digging!

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This week is the BIG WEEK for 811.   Friday, August 11 is National 811 Day.   (8/11…get it?)

811 is the number you call for FREE from coast to coast and border to border in the United States to get underground pipelines and cables and such located and marked for FREE to give you the heads up before you begin digging.

The date of 8/11 is promoted by the Common Ground Alliance, a member-driven association of 1,700 individuals, organizations and sponsors in every facet of the underground utility industry. Established in 2000, CGA is committed to saving lives and preventing damage to North American underground infrastructure by promoting effective damage prevention practices.

National 811 Day is a reminder for everyone in the United States to call 811 before digging, from contractors to professional excavators to homeowners.   We all have a stake in protecting our underground infrastructure.  And remember, this is a free service!

“For free?” you ask.   “What’s the catch?”

There is no catch.  It’s a free call, and the subsequent locating service is also free.  A call to 811 is the source for all the little multicolored flags you see stuck in the ground, or spray paint on a sidewalk or street.   Those colors indicate the type of buried infrastructure in the area, and warn excavators, contractors, farmers, ranchers, homeowners – anyone digging – of what is below and to proceed CAREFULLY.

At South Dakota One Call, we’re celebrating 8/11 day by doing the same thing we do every day – keeping our state’s underground infrastructure safe from digging accidents.

Our members put their trust in us, and by doing so they’re putting your trust in them to keep you safe and keep your utilities and services up and running.

811 day may be the most important date of the year for one call notification – but EVERY HOUR OF EVERY DAY is the most important time of the year for us.

Until next week, safe digging!

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It was just a year ago that the last company known to be making brand new VHS machines produced its final one.  The format that had dominated home video for decades had at last reached the end of the line, literally.  Even before that last video cassette recorder/player came out of the factory, though, the lights were clearly going out for VHS.  Blockbuster, once the nation’s largest video rental store, had already hit the skids as more people gravitated to on-demand streaming.  Rival Netflix was able to turn their business around from mail rental to online rental and on-demand movies and TV shows.

I say all of this because there were a few stragglers to hang on to the bitter end, as there always are.  I just read that one of them, a very large and very old video rental store in Dallas, shut its doors a couple of months ago.  Premiere Video’s 5,000 square foot location housed close to 25,000 titles, and had been in business since 1984.  Their video collection was home to many rare films and absolute diamonds, as well as the usual mainstream fare.

As far as anyone can ascertain, Premiere was the very last video rental store alive in the nation’s 9th largest city.

But new technology put an end to it.   Technology is always advancing, and if you aren’t staying out in front of it, it will put an end to you, too.

That’s why all of us at South Dakota One Call work so hard to keep making 811 easier for you to use.  Find us through our website, or come in through the portal at or use the smart phone app at

And while you don’t have to hand crank a phone anymore to get an operator, you can still reach us through the phone at the number 811. If you need additional assistance, no need to send us a letter (remember those?  They had a stamp on the envelope and you mailed them)   Just email us at

No matter what happens in the future, the need to call 811 to get those underground utilities located prior to a dig isn’t going to go away.   And while we can’t guess how you’ll get in touch with us 30 years from now, we can tell you that our service will be there for you, 24/7/365.

Because while movie formats may change from Beta to VHS to Videodisc to LaserDisc to DVD to Blu-Ray to online streaming, digging a hole in the ground still requires knowing what’s down there before digging that hole in the ground.


Until next week, safe digging!

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Drought in SD811

We’ve talked about the need to conserve and protect water resources before in this blog – and it’s not getting any less serious.

Currently, nearly 11 percent of South Dakota is in extreme drought, with 44 percent at severe drought levels.

The hard truth of the matter is, ALL of South Dakota is either abnormally dry or experiencing some stage of drought.

That means it’s more important than ever that you call 811 before beginning ANY sort of excavation work in the Mount Rushmore state.

Our neighbors and fellow South Dakotans are trying to squeeze out every last drop of water without wasting any; breaking a water transmission line because you didn’t make a call to 811 before digging is the last thing our state needs.

Using 811 is ridiculously simple.  Call or contact and wait for the locate.

And the 811 service is FREE. Gratis. Costs nothing.  No money.  Zero.  Zip.  Nada.

You can’t beat that price!

Do you own drain tile, irrigation lines, buried power or any other buried services that enter the public right of way? Did you know that it is a legal requirement to register those buried facilities with South Dakota One Call? Are you aware of how low the cost is to protect your investment?

This easy to use guideline page will let you know how and when you need to contact South Dakota 811.

Always take the time to know what’s below BEFORE you dig – because the only storm clouds you want to see on the horizon are those that are full of rain!

Until next week, safe digging!

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In last week’s blog, we talked about all the ways you can keep your employees and yourself safe from the summer sun – and while heat protection is always big on anyone’s list, so should be protection from insects, vegetation and the unpleasant things often found lurking in rock piles.

According to a report in June’s Journal of Medical Entomology, the mosquitos that carry Zika virus and other illnesses showed up in 38 more counties in the U.S. in 2016.

Mosquitos that carry the  Zika virus are not yet known to have shown up in South Dakota, but West Nile virus is here.

According to the South Dakota Mosquito Information Systems website, ( here’s what you can look forward to this week.

For the week of July 17th,  around 2% of cases typically occur during this week, and around 12% of total cases for the year, about 1 in 8, usually occur before the end of the week.

These sicknesses are more than just a mosquito bite.  They are serious diseases that can cause debilitating side effects and even death. THERE ARE NO VACCINES OR MEDICINES FOR THESE DISEASES.

The Centers for Disease Control offer these protective tips:

Use insect repellent: Use an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellent with one of the following active ingredients. When used as directed, EPA-registered insect repellents are proven safe and effective, even for pregnant and breastfeeding women.

  • DEET
  • Picaridin, also known as KBR 3023Bayrepel, and icaridin
  • Oil of lemon eucalyptus(OLE) or para-menthane-diol (PMD)
  • IR3535
  • 2-undecanone

Cover up: Wear light colored long-sleeved shirts and long pants.  Don’t forget a cover for your head, and of course, work gloves.  Remember, covering up will not only help protect you from insects, but will also protect you from the sun.   You’ll be warm, but remember to constantly hydrate.  Water remains your best friend.

Remember that mosquitos are most active at dawn and dusk.

Covering up will also protect you from poison sumac, poison ivy, poison oak, nettles and any number of other nasty vegetation species.

Last, but certainly not least, are those slithering snakes.   If you think they’re only on the ground, you’re wrong.  Many of them can climb trees.  Keep a sharp lookout – coming face to face with one while you are pushing a backhoe would be eye opening, to say the least.   Snakes love tall grass, brush piles, rock piles – anywhere they feel safe and it’s out of the sun.   Always wear work gloves and heavy work boots.   Keep a snakebite medic kit with your work crew, and know how to use it.

Until next time, safe digging!

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Hey, sailor, it’s hot outside…

You may have noticed, but just in case you haven’t – it’s HOT outside.  As I’m writing this, I took a look at a forecast map for today.

Yep.  Don’t look for snowfall just yet.  A high of 92 in Rapid City today, and it’s just going to keep getting warmer.

Our business requires working outside.  You probably rarely, if ever, get called to use a backhoe inside of an air conditioned building.  (If you do, let me know and we’ll do a blog on you)

As always, getting buried lines and cables safely flagged by 811 is just part of the job.  The other part involves safe digging around those buried lines and cables, and this time of year, it also involves taking care of yourself out in the heat.

Here are a some tips from the Skin Cancer Foundation at for outdoor workers:

  1. Outside jobs can sometimes be done inside or moved to a shady location. A temporary shelter can be erected or trees and buildings used for protection.
    2.A shady spot should be available for lunch and coffee breaks.
    3. Reorganize the job so tasks requiring outdoor work get done in the morning before 10 a.m. and after 4 p.m., to avoid the hours of greatest sun intensity.
    4. Wear protective clothing and cover the skin.
    5. Long-sleeved, closely woven shirts and long trousers provide the best protection.
    6. Avoid clothes that you can see light through. If light is getting through, the ultraviolet radiation is getting through as well.
    7. If shorts are worn, a pair that approaches the knee will offer more protection than a shorter pair.
    8. A collar will protect the skin on the back of the neck.
    9. Wear a hat and sunglasses
    10. A hat will keep the sun off the face, neck and ears. It will also protect bald spots.
    11. Broad-brimmed hats are best.  The brim should be at least three inches wide.
    12. If a lot of bending is required, have a flap on the back of the hat, which will keep the sun off the back of the neck.
    13. Hardhats can have a flap or extra brim fitted to them.
    14. Use sunglasses or safety glasses that filter out UV rays.
    15. Use an SPF 15 or higher sunscreen before going outdoors.
    16. Use a water-resistant sunscreen when working with water or when perspiring.
    17. Some substances increase the harmful effects of ultraviolet radiation. These include industrial chemicals such as asphalt and diphenyls, and some medications. A water-resistant sunscreen will help give protection when there is likely to be skin contact with these substances.
    18. Choose a gel, stick or lotion form of sunscreen according to personal preference; no one form is more effective than another.
    19. Reapply sunscreen every two hours. If sweating freely, reapply more often.
    20. Make sure the face, lips, neck, ears, arms and back of the hands are protected.
    21. Ultraviolet radiation bounces off water, sand, concrete, light-colored surfaces and snow.  People who work near these areas will need to take extra care.

Well, you’re not likely to get any ultraviolet bouncing off snow for a while, but still…take care out there!

Until next week, safe digging!


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This week we celebrate our nation’s birth and independence.  There will be fireworks, picnics, bands, parades and flags.   We at South Dakota 811 are celebrating with you – but we’d also like to give you something to think about in a fun way!

So, in the spirit of a former late night tv host’s top ten, here is a backward countdown of interesting anecdotes from by Juan Castillo:

  1. The average age of those who signed the Declaration of Independence was 45. The youngest at age 27, was Thomas Lynch, Jr of South Carolina. The oldest delegate was Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania at age 70. Thomas Jefferson was 33.
  2. 1 out of 8 signers were educated at Harvard (7 total)
  3. 87.5% ($2.8 million) of imported U.S. flags are from China.
  4. 97% ($190.7 million) of imported fireworks are from China.
  5. An estimated 150 million hot dogs will be consumed onJuly 4th.
  6. Both the Philippines and Rwanda celebrateJuly 4th as a day of liberation. In Southeast Asia, it is known as “Republic Day” and Rwandans celebrate “Liberation Day.”
  7. The White House held its first4th of July party in 1801
  8. The tune of the National Anthem was originally used by an English drinking song called To Anacreon in Heaven.
  9. In 1954, the words ‘under God’ was added to the Pledge of Allegiance.
  10. The oldest, continuous Independence Day celebration in the United States is the4th of July Parade in Bristol, Rhode Island; it began in 1785.

Did you learn something new?   Here’s one more, just for fun: The printed version of the Declaration was called the Dunlap Broadside – 200 were made but only 27 are accounted for.   That leaves 173 of them somewhere – maybe there’s one in the bottom of that dusty trunk up in the attic!

Until next week, safe digging!

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Before becoming involved with 811, I worked as a video producer for the Fire and Emergency Television Network.  Among the many fire fighter training programs I produced were some on trench rescue.

Sadly, almost any fire fighter will tell you that it’s hardly ever a “rescue” – it’s more than likely going to be a “recovery.”  That’s what happens when the weight of a Volkswagen beetle falls down on top of you if you’re unlucky enough to be working at the bottom of an un-shored and un-secured trench.  The weight crushes the air from your lungs, your mouth and nose fill with dirt or sand, and – well, I don’t have to go on.  I’m sure you get the picture.

That’s why South Dakota 811 is working hard with OSHA to spread the word about trench safety awareness for underground utility locators.

According to OSHA, there has been a national increase in trenching accidents and fatalities.  In the past year in South Dakota, there have been near-misses, serious accidents and two deaths.

The truly sad thing about all of this is that they are, for the most part, completely avoidable.

The National Utility Contractors Association is holding a Trench Safety Stand Down during the week of June 19 – June 24, 2017.  Check this link where you can find excavation checklists, presentations, handouts and OSHA’s toolbox talks.   There are other options on this page as well.

The Trench Safety Stand Down week coincides with Locator Safety Awareness Week.

The men and women who perform the underground utility locates across the United States work hard each and every week, so it’s only right to honor them with their own week.

Summer is one of the toughest times to be a locator in the south and southwest, though those who do the job in the north and northeast would probably say winter, instead. (more information on surviving the heat outside is here:

In any case, performing locates at all hours of the day and night is an often thankless task, but one that’s the first line of defense in protecting our nation’s underground infrastructure.

Here’s the top ten hazards faced by locators:

  • Working in confined spaces (this includes trenches)
  • Threats to the eyes
  • Climate and weather hazards
  • Dog bites
  • Punctures and injury to feet
  • Poison ivy and other skin threats
  • Insect bites and stings
  • Walking, lifting, bending and squatting
  • Slips, trips and falls
  • Working in the road

Please help South Dakota 811 and OSHA protect our locators – after all, they’re busy out there protecting YOU.

Until next week, safe digging!

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Time finally did what the Joker, the Penguin, the Riddler, Catwoman and dozens of other nefarious foes could not do – it laid Batman low.

Adam West, star of the campy 1960’s TV series Batman, died over the weekend at the age of 88.

West, along with co-star Burt Ward as Robin, fought a tongue in cheek battle against crime for a total of 120 episodes when Batman debuted at 7:30 p.m. on January 12, 1966, a Wednesday – with a twist.  Each episode ended in a cliffhanger that would be resolved the very next night with the familiar intonation of “Same Bat-time!  Same Bat-channel!”

Equally famous were Robin’s exclamations of “Holy Benedict Arnold!   Holy Hamburger!  Holy Hamlet!” or whatever the duo was facing at the time.

Was there ever a cry for “Holy 811, Batman!”?

Sadly, no.  811 didn’t exist back in 1966.   But if it had, you can bet the Boy Wonder and the Caped Crusader would have been big supporters.  Batman was hilariously corny, but he always had the best interests of the citizens of Gotham City at heart.

Watch episodes of the series for long, and  you’ll quickly find that Batman was a champion for kids to drink their milk, eat their vegetables, do their homework, and wear their seatbelts.

Exhorting them to call 811 would have been right at the top of his Bat-list.

Let’s face it.  Only a true villain like Egghead, the Bookworm, King Tut, False Face, Mr Freeze or any of the other 37 evil-doers who populated the TV show wouldn’t have used 811 to get their underground utilities located before digging.

So come on, South Dakota!   Check in with South Dakota 811 and do the right thing.  Call 811 before you dig.

Do it for yourself.  Do it for your state.  Do it for Batman.

South Dakota 811.  Don’t excavate your Bat-cave without it!

Until next week, safe digging!

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Over the weekend I finally watched the movie Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.   It’s by Harry Potter author JK Rowling, and as you might expect is full of, well, Fantastic Beasts and other things magical.

If you haven’t seen it, and without giving away the plot, it seems that 1926 New York City is under siege from some very dark magic.  Matters are made worse when the contents of a suitcase containing Fantastic Beasts is let loose by accident.  Much mayhem and wholesale destruction occurs.

It’s during one of these scenes that residents of a demolished block of row houses and apartments are crazy over the dark force that hit them so hard.   The wizards, fearing exposure, make the residents believe they smelled gas instead before the explosions.


The rotten egg smell in processed natural gas didn’t come into play until a decade later, after a real life tragedy in a small town in East Texas.

The year was 1937, and the town of New London, Texas was thriving.  The mighty East Texas oil fields had come in a few years earlier, and oil money was changing the landscape of what had once been sleepy rural towns.  New London boasted the first high school stadium in the nation to have full night time lighting for football games, part of a new one million dollar school building erected five years earlier with steel framing and considered to be very modern.

Sitting the middle of an oil field and surrounded by natural gas, the school board finally thought – why pay for it?  The board canceled their contract with United Gas Company to save some money.  Instead, they had plumbers cut into a waste gas line from a local oil company.  Waste gas was normally flared off, and it had become a common practice for people to tap into these lines.  It’s worth noting that the oil companies did not explicitly authorize this use.

The problem with this green or wet gas is that it’s odorless and undetectable.  A leak developed, the school basement filled, and the spark from a power tool ignited it.

Nearly 300 children and teachers died.   The tragedy made headlines in Europe.


In a rare show of speed and urgency, the Texas Legislature enacted laws requiring the introduction of mercaptan into natural gas lines.  The practice quickly became one of the few world-wide standards in use today.

The current US regulation is 49CFR, 192.625, “Odorization of Gas.” It mandates that any combustible gas within a distribution line and transmission line (exceptions noted in the rules) must contain odorant at the level of 20% (1/5) of the lower explosive limit so that a person with a “typical” sense of smell can detect it.

When you smell natural gas, don’t look around for an Obscurus, a Dragon, a Kneazie, a Moke, or a Remura.   They won’t be there – but danger will.   Get a safe distance away and call 911.

And ALWAYS call 811 BEFORE you dig to get underground lines located!

Oh, by the way – filming on the next production in the Fantastic Beasts series is set to begin in July, 2017, with Jude Law and Johnny Depp as two of the stars.

Until next week, safe digging!


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