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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When most people call us at South Dakota 811, they are probably thinking first of protecting underground gas and oil pipelines, followed by electricity and telecommunications.

And that’s a good thing.

But there’s something else that should also be considered, especially in light of this report on recent weather conditions from the news site.

Lack Of Rain Causing Drought Concerns

The lack of May rainfall is causing concern across north-central KELOLAND.  

By the looks of it, Sioux Falls and much of southeastern KELOLAND has been on the receiving end of above normal rainfall for many months.  But northern KELOLAND is quickly going the other way, and the latest drought monitor shows the problem area well.

You can read the entire story here:

And here’s a current map from the United States Drought Monitor at


What does that mean for 811 and for excavators?

In South Dakota, water and sewer lines must also be located before digging and are required to be registered with 811.  Farmers must also register “drain tile” with South Dakota 811. (If you are not familiar with the term, for an explanation of “drain tile” see here:

In a drought, every drop of water counts.  You don’t want to be the person who needlessly cuts a water supply line because you didn’t call 811.   Go to our website at for information on how and why you should call 811 before digging.

Don’t waste a precious resource.  Call South Dakota 811 before you dig.

Until next time, safe digging!

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It’s no secret that South Dakota is rich in history – but we usually think of it as history above the ground.

Today we’ll take a look below the ground.

The Badlands National Park in South Dakota covers 244,000 acres and contains one of the world’s richest fossil beds.  There’s also plenty to see without an archeological dig; just go to the website and have a look around!

One thing you’ll find out is that it’s not called the “Badlands” for nothing.  It’s a beautiful, but stark, environment that must be respected.

The Badlands formed over millions and millions of years. The layers are composed of tiny grains of sediments such as sand, silt, and clay that have been cemented together into sedimentary rocks.  Here’s information from the National Parks Service:

The sedimentary rock layers of Badlands National Park were deposited during the late Cretaceous Period (67 to 75 million years ago) throughout the Late Eocene (34 to 37 million years ago) and Oligocene Epochs (26 to 34 million years ago).

The lighter-colored Sharps Formation was deposited from 28 to 30 million years ago by wind and water as the climate continued to dry and cool.

A thick layer of volcanic ash known as the Rockyford Ash was deposited 30 million years ago, forming the bottom layer of the Sharps Formation.

The tannish brown Brule Formation was deposited between 30 and 34 million years ago.

The greyish Chadron Formation was deposited between 34 and 37 million years ago by rivers across a flood plain.

The black Pierre Shale was deposited between 69 and 75 million years ago when a shallow, inland sea stretched across what is now the Great Plains.

So you see, it took a great deal of geological work to put the Badlands together.   And that makes the area rich in fossil species.

The Badlands have seen a lot of changes over the years – but one thing that hasn’t changed in South Dakota is the need to call 811 before you  dig.  Locating those underground lines and cables is a must-do before ANY excavation takes place.    Just make that free call to 811 at least 48 hours before your intended work is to begin (weekends and holidays excluded) and you’ll soon find your job site has sprouted locator flags to tell you where those underground lines are buried.

Oh – and that line locating service is also FREE.

So whoever you are – homeowner, contractor, professional excavator, farmer, rancher – the 811 service is there for YOU, 24/7/365.  Come see us at South Dakota 811 for more information.

Until next week, safe digging!

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There you are, cruising along, ready for the school year to come to an end – when Mother Nature suddenly steps in with a body slam.

Armour, South Dakota schools were closed today due to early morning storm damage.   You can read the developing story here:

You might be thinking, what does that have to do with South Dakota 811?


Let’s take a page from the official South Dakota 811 Operations Manual for Facility Operators and Excavators.  (You can download the entire document in PDF right here:

What we’re interested in is the section on emergency tickets:

Emergency Requests (Ticket Type – Emergency)


An emergency is defined by South Dakota Law Chapter 49-7A-1(2), as “An occurrence which demands immediate action to prevent significant environmental damage or loss of life, health, property, or essential public services including the re-erecting of critically needed traffic control signs or devices.”

Examples of emergencies are as follows:

  1. An unforeseen excavation necessary in order to prevent a condition that poses a clear and immediate danger to life or health.
  2. An excavation required to repair a utility service outage
  3. An excavation required in order to prevent significant property damage.
  4. The repair of an existing unstable condition which may result in any of the conditions listed above (for example, a leak in any service or main or a fault in a primary or secondary wire or cable).

Severe weather can do more than uproot trees and take the roofs off of buildings.  It can also pull pipelines and cables up out of the ground, posing an immediate threat to anyone in the area.

That’s the reason for the emergency ticket request.

An emergency is NOT trying to dig a hole for a swimming pool before the weekend is out.

So remember – when bad weather calls in South Dakota, call on South Dakota 811 for that emergency ticket.

Until next week, safe digging!

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The year just seems to be racing past.  We’ve finished the first week of May, basketball and hockey playoffs are in full swing and baseball is well under way.

Our next holiday is almost upon us, too – Memorial Day.   It will fall on Monday, May 29th this year.

Did you know that Memorial Day was originally called Decoration Day?   It got its origin a few years after the Civil War, and was then, as it is now, a day to honor American war dead.   You can get more information on Memorial Day here:

A new piece of Memorial architecture is planned for Mitchell, South Dakota.    The six foot by five foot wall could have as many as 75 names on it of veterans from the Mitchell area who have been killed in action over the years.   You can read about the planned memorial here:

Work like this planned piece requires a very solid footing.   It’s not like standing up a Halloween or holiday decoration in your front yard.   A foundation base will have to be excavated, soil samples made, etc. to erect the monument.   The structure is expected to cost around $11,000 and will be a focal point of the revamped park area project totaling over $300,000.

Brad Ciavarella is the owner and principle architect at Ciavarella Design Architects in Mitchell who are doing the memorial design work.  He says this won’t be the first time his firm has been involved with South Dakota One Call.

“Anytime you have a structure like this, free standing or not, getting the foundation down is the most important thing.  Calling 811 first gets lines located and lets us have a clear field when the dirt actually begins moving.”

Of course, it’s not just the professionals who should use South Dakota One Call.   Homeowners, farmers, ranchers – anyone breaking ground in South Dakota for a project – should call 48 hours in advance of their work to get those underground utilities located.  The call is free, and so is the subsequent locating service.

Find out more at

The full veteran’s park should be completed by mid-August.

Until next week, safe digging!

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Just when you thought it was safe to finally go outside….and spring had arrived….and birds were chirping….here’s this item from the Associated Press for Monday, May 1, 2017:

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) – April showers have given way to May snow. Sioux Falls and other parts of eastern South Dakota are waking up to snow-covered roads and power outages this May Day. Meteorologists say about 5 inches of snow has fallen near Crooks and about 3½ inches at Sioux Falls.

Well, that would certainly put a damper on your plans to dance around the May Pole today!

However, excavation goes on.  South Dakota One Call remains your go-to for getting underground utilities located prior to a dig.   Just keep telling yourself the snow can’t last forever, and try and forget about that whole “Winter is coming” thing from Game of Thrones.

Winter is done.  This is just a little bump in the road.   In a couple of months you’ll be wishing for a day like today.

In the meantime, if staring at the snow is making you crazy, remember these tips about getting lines located from South Dakota One Call.

Use South Dakota 811 to locate underground utilities before you dig. Excavators planning to dig, drill or trench should make the required locate request to South Dakota 811 two working days before the planned work. Homeowners and landowners planning their own excavation activities are required to notify South Dakota 811 as well.

Submit a locate request 24/7 to South Dakota 811 by:

Phone: Make a free call to 811 (in-state) or (800) 781-7474 (outside of South Dakota).

Web Portal: Use the new South Dakota 811 Web portal for faster processing of locate requests. Web Portal users must complete a short training session. Contact Remote Apps to request a demo or ask questions about the Web Portal.

Mobile App: Use the new South Dakota 811 mobile app for convenient and quick connection from wherever you are. Follow these instructions to download the app on your mobile device. This App is now available for use on Android products.

Some underground lines on private property are privately-owned and may not be marked by a utility. Other underground lines, between a meter and the home or business, may be considered privately-owned. In these cases a charge by the utility may apply to locate and mark those lines.

South Dakota 811 provides for communication between excavators and underground facility operators so buried utilities can be marked in advance of any digging. Following the South Dakota 811 procedure works to reduce damages to underground infrastructure, helps to ensure public and worker safety, and protects the integrity of utility services.


Until next week, safe digging!


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So here we are in the last week of Safe Digging Month.  Hope you’ve done your part to keep our underground infrastructure safe!   It’s so easy to reach South Dakota 811.  Just dial 811!   Or visit our webpage, for more information.  Nothing could be easier.

Of course, South Dakotans sometimes take things to extremes that we really shouldn’t.

In Sioux Falls recently, police say a 56-year-old man ran into a burning building twice, despite orders from police and firefighters for him to stop.

Rescuing children?  Pets?  Wedding photographs?  His aged grandmother confined to a wheelchair?

Nope.  When he came back out, police said that he was carrying two cans of Bud Ice beer.

No kidding.  You can read the story here:

No doubt there are a lot of things you’d run back into a burning building for, but two cans of beer shouldn’t be on the list.

It’s about priorities.   And your first priority before you begin ANY excavation project should be to get in touch with 811.  We’ll get all the information needed in one easy five minute or less call to help ensure that your underground utilities are flagged or marked prior to your dig.

Seriously, nothing could be easier than using 811.

Your utilities will thank you for it, your boss will thank you for it, your insurer will thank you for it, and your emergency responders will thank you for it.

Because, you know, they have to keep an eye on the rocket scientists running into burning buildings to retrieve a couple of cans of beer.

Until next week, safe digging!





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My house was built in 1936.  That means it’s 81 years old this year.  At some point in its past life, the wiring was replaced and modernized, as was the interior plumbing – though the original bathtub to the house is still in place in the downstairs bathroom.  It’s huge.  The home inspectors said to never get rid of it, because all that would be left is a huge hole in the floor where this nearly three foot deep monster currently resides.   Sure, it’s been refinished over the years, but I can well imagine some kid in 1942 with a navy flotilla in there splashing water all over the place.

The water line from the city meter to the house, however – is about kaput.

Oddly, for the work done to modernize the interior plumbing, the water input line appears to be the original from 1936.   That it’s still working is a minor miracle, though the word “working” can have a couple of definitions here.  Does it carry water from the city to the house without geysering up in the yard?  Yes.

Does it carry a large enough volume that you may flush the toilet without killing someone in the shower?  No.

I don’t know if you’ve ever replaced a water service line before.  Apparently it’s not cheap.   Three estimates were taken, and here they are:  $2700, $3200, and $3700.

Which one is being used?   (Go ahead, I’ll give you a second or two to do the math)

Right!  $2700.    And not only for the cost.  Mr. $2700, once he was done telling me how the line would be laid in and how long it would take, also said those two little words I longed to hear:  “Before we start trenching you’re going to have to call in a locate to 811.”

Okay, so maybe it was a bit more than two little words, but you get the picture.

It’s not a giant job.  No one is laying down a natural gas pipeline through the street.  But they will be digging.  And that means the risk of hitting something exists.

Homeowners, farmers, ranchers – all should be calling in for locates.  The 811 number is not just for the big boy utilities.  It’s a national number, and it’s for everyone.  What’s more, it’s free to use, and so is the locating service.

We’ve still got two weeks left in National Safe Digging Month, so make the most of it.  Get into the 811 habit!  You’ll be glad you did!

Until next week, safe digging!

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