The Best Things in Life are Free

The best things in life are free

It’s been a popular saying since appearing in a song in the 1927 Broadway musical Good News.

“The best things in life are free
Now that I’ve discovered
What you mean to me
The best things in life are free”

Over the past 90 years, the meaning has expanded to mean much more than romantic love.

At South Dakota 811 we have a commitment to keeping you informed and safe while keeping your wallet out of the equation.

That is why a quick phone call to South Dakota 811 is all it takes to get the information you need on the location of nearby underground facilities.

Within two working days, the utilities will respond with paint or flags so that you know what’s below and it won’t cost you a thing.

Not only is it the law to call before you dig, but it reduces the risk of accidentally hitting an underground utility to less than one percent!

At South Dakota 811, we’re open for your locate requests 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  You can always speak with a live agent, or if you prefer, simply enter your requests online.  Homeowners can click HERE to reach the Homeowner Portal.  Professional excavators can request locates online HERE.

We’re happy to help, not send you a bill.  See, the best things in life really are free.

Until next week, safe digging!

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This is Buried Infrastructure’s Best Friend

Have you ever had a friend that always showed up to help when you needed them most?

For excavators in South Dakota, this constant companion is referred to as the “Tolerance Zone”.

The Tolerance Zone is an invisible layer of protection for underground facilities that shows up every time you call 811 for a free locate request.

But what exactly is the Tolerance Zone?

As shown in the image below, when digging in South Dakota, the Tolerance Zone can be described as the area within 18 inches of either outside edge of the marked underground facility.

And although you can’t physically see the Tolerance Zone, it’s an additional safeguard for the buried lines.

Implementing safe digging practices in the tolerance zone such as soft digging, hand digging, or pot holing are all great ways to carefully uncover the underground utilities.

Regardless of which method you choose, it’s important to remember to visually confirm the location of the underground lines in the Tolerance Zone before the use of any mechanically powered equipment.

So, don’t forget to call 811 before your next project, the utilities will show up to mark their lines.

Until next week, safe digging.

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100 Years of Safe Hunting

Did you know this Fall marks South Dakota’s 100th hunting season?

Over the years, South Dakota has distinguished itself as one the world’s best locales for small game hunting.  And we owe it all to our state favorite, the pheasant.

Originally from China, the pheasant found its ideal home in our varied South Dakota landscapes, when introduced locally in the early 20th century.

And ever since, the annual tradition of pheasant hunting has attracted thousands of hunters, both local and abroad.

If you’re one of those hunters eagerly awaiting this year’s upcoming season, then you’re in for a treat!

According to the South Dakota Game, Fish, and Parks department, this year’s pheasant brood survey is up almost 47% over last year. And after the new additions in 2017, South Dakota now has over 1.1 million acres of hunting land open to the public.

With so much global interest in our local bird, hunters know that it’s important to follow safety guide lines such as those found in the South Dakota Hunting Handbook in order to protect the environment, local wildlife, and especially their neighbors.

And excavating is no different.

Calling 811 is a fast and easy way that you can protect you and your neighbors.

Whether you are digging an animal trap or planting a tree, remembering to have your underground utility lines located is a free and important step in making sure that you’re ready to begin your next project.

Until next week, safe digging!

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Labor Day

Happy Labor Day!

What started as a small idea to honor the working class, has since turned into a nationwide movement in which we pay tribute to the contributions that workers have made to our country.

But where does Labor Day come from?

Some believe it originated in New York in 1882, after a very successful public parade to celebrate the labor force.  Others are convinced that it did not come about until the early age of the Central Labor Union, a year later.

Believe it or not, no one really knows for sure.

However, there is one thing that we do know for certain.

Workers deserve recognition!

That is why at South Dakota 811, would like to take a special moment to thank all those hard-working individuals that make up our state’s labor force.

Whether you are an excavator, a teacher, or anything in between, it is the work that you do that has allowed our state to prosper.

At South Dakota 811 we believe that nothing honors our workforce more than keeping them safe.

So, help us carry on this well-earned tradition by making sure you contact us at 811 or through our Portal before beginning any excavation this fall.

Until next week, safe digging!

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Back to School, Back to Business


It’s that time of the year again, when kids are shaking off summer fun and getting back to school.

Whether they waved a flag for their favorite racer at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally or lost their voice singing along at one of our state’s many music festivals, they are all getting back to business!

And much like those students, you may be getting back to business as well.

When that time comes, we hope that you remember that it’s important to notify us before you begin your next project, no matter how small.

Did you know that even a job as simple as installing a mailbox might damage or disrupt the underground utilities?

Not only is it dangerous to not have a locate request, but when utility lines are damaged, it can affect your neighbors as well.

In a state with over 30 learning institutions and thousands of students getting ready for class, we have a lot of neighbors to worry about!

That is why we are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to make sure we are here whenever you need us.

And we’ve been working hard to make sure that it’s never been easier to get your underground utility lines marked.  It’s as simple as dialing 811 or using our online web portal HERE.

Professional excavators can email to request a short demo and for other assistance with online ticket input.  Once trained, log into the Portal at

After you have processed your locate, don’t forget to head out to the South Dakota State Fair if you or your family missed out on the fun this summer.  You can download the admission order form HERE by simply following the link, and clicking on the “Pass Order Form” button. They’ve even got reduced prices for your students!

We hope to see you there.

Until next week, safe digging!

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Excavator Responsibilities

Over the years, even very experienced workers tend to forget some of the basics they learned in the beginning of their careers.  This week’s blog is a refresher on excavator responsibilities.

Each excavator, including each subcontractor, is responsible for:

  • Requesting the one-call notification, it is not your customer’s responsibility.
  • Immediately reporting damage or exposure of any underground utility to South Dakota 811 and the operator of that facility. If a gas line has been hit or damaged, you must also call 911.
  • Knowing and following the 18” tolerance zones from the outside edge of facilities. Use only hand tools, air cutting, water cutting, or vacuum excavation within the tolerance zone until the underground lines have been exposed.
  • Retaining the locate ticket number until the project has been completed.
  • Requesting a line locate at least two business days, excluding weekends and holidays, before beginning work.
  • Providing accurate driving directions with distances and cardinal directions (North, South, East, West) when working in rural areas.
  • Providing TRSQ (Township, Range, Section and Quarter) and GPS coordinates when available.
  • Confirming the response of the notified utilities before proceeding with any excavation.
  • Notifying South Dakota 811 after determining that one or more utilities have not responded to a locate request and requesting a Verification ticket for only the specific companies that have not responded.
  • Looking for utility signage at your work site and obeying instructions on the signs.
  • Following safe digging practices and maintaining equipment condition to ensure safety standards.
  • And, excavators, please remember to remove all flags when the work is complete.

How many are you still practicing regularly?

Visit for additional information.

Until next week, dig safely.

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OSHA, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, has named the week of August 13 National Safe + Sound Week.  Its purpose is to raise awareness and to encourage businesses to develop a systematic approach to finding and fixing hazards in the workplace.

Organizations of all sizes and in every industry are encouraged to participate this week to show their commitment to worker, customer and public safety.  South Dakota 811 recommends that as many of you as possible plan participating activities.

Activities don’t have to be elaborate.   They could be as simple as a series of emails talking about management’s commitment to a safe and healthy workplace.  HERE are some other Safe + Sound activities with limited time commitments.

If you do participate this week, you are encouraged to enter your information HERE to be recognized for your participation. Just click on the “Are You Participating” button.  There are certificates of participation available to download on the site.

Despite having a whole week dedicated to Safe + Sound activities, the program is more than a single week of activities, it is a philosophy that a safe and healthy workplace makes good business sense.  Here are some suggestions for implementing this philosophy throughout the year.

  1. Establish safety and health as a core value.
  2. Lead by example.
  3. Implement a reporting system.
  4. Provide training.
  5. Conduct inspections.
  6. Collect hazard control ideas.
  7. Implement hazard controls.
  8. Address emergencies.
  9. Seek input on workplace changes.
  10. Make improvements to the program.


Until next week, dig safely.

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There’s just something special about fresh fruits and vegetables.

That’s why Farmer’s Markets are so popular.   The Farmer’s Market coalition estimates there are over 8,000 such markets operating across the United States.   (New York City has over 100 markets)

In South Dakota, a big market is the Falls Park Farmer’s Market, located in Sioux Falls.  Open every Saturday through October from 8am to 1pm, the market is a place for fresh meat, vegetables, fruit, flowers, baked goods, plants and much  more.

These items are straight from South Dakota growers and ready for your table or kitchen.

Like any other such market in the nation, it’s a great place to meet the folks who produce your food.  They’re happy to tell you all about how it comes to market.

But, just like their New York or Los Angeles brother farmers, they do have one thing in common:  they use water, and lots of it.

As a general rule of thumb, tomato plants require 1 to 2 inches of water each week, but a more accurate measurement is 1 inch of water, or 1 gallon of water, every 5 days.   Multiply that out over thousands of acres.   That’s a LOT of water.

That’s why it’s so important to get in touch with South Dakota 811 before you dig.

Farmers have a tough enough time of it as it is, fighting the weather and fluctuating values on their goods.  Don’t add to it by making them worry about their water supply.

For instance, did you know that you may need a water rights permit from the state depending on what you’re using the water for?

It’s been said that, next to air, water is our most valuable resource in South Dakota.  Don’t waste it.  ALWAYS use South Dakota 811 before you dig.  Using 811 to get underground infrastructure located prior to excavation reduces the chances of hitting something you shouldn’t to less than one percent.

So – 811, dig carefully, and reward yourself with a treat from the Falls Park Farmer’s Market.  It’s a winning combination!

Until next week, safe digging!

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Have you ever had that feeling that someone is looking over your shoulder?   That feeling that you’re being watched?

Don’t worry.   It’s just NASA.

The space agency took a view of our state recently to assess damage after fierce hailstorms pounded western and central South Dakota at the end of June.

NASA satellites are able to see the damage left by the hail storms.  It appears as a tan-looking scar that reaches over half of the state.  The hail storm was so vicious that in spots, the damage extends for six miles in width.

You may be wondering – I was – how NASA can see this damage.   According to NASA, satellites that “see” heat imaging focus in on the damaged areas because they actually show up hotter due to losing crops and other shade/cover vegetation from hail stones.

You can read the entire story here.

So what does this have to do with South Dakota 811?

It’s a stark reminder of how Mother Nature can obliterate your crops and fields in an instant.

She does quite well on her own when she has a temper tantrum.

You don’t need to provide her with any help by failing to contact 811 before you use a tiling plow, or drill, or excavate for any reason.

A ruptured gas line, a severed electrical line, damaged telecommunications or – even  worse in a state always looking for rain, a damaged water line – all of these things can have an impact on your livelihood and on our crops.

And just about all of it can be avoided by contacting South Dakota 811 first.  Having an underground utility locate completed prior to excavation reduces your risk of hitting something you shouldn’t to less than one percent.

We depend on you to get in contact with us.  Unlike NASA, we can’t look down from orbit and see if you’ve actually called in an 811 locate request.

At least, not yet….

Until next week, safe digging!

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Remember the ice bucket challenge a while back?   People shot video of themselves getting doused with ice and ice water and then challenged someone else to do it.  Money raised went to the ALS charity. (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis research)

Now there’s a new challenge making the rounds – the lip-synch challenge.  Police officers are among those making videos of themselves lip-synching to a song.

South Dakota is not immune from this latest craze.  The Rapid City police force took it upon themselves to record one.  You can see it here, on the website.

While it’s doubtful anyone is going to win a Grammy for this effort,  it shows a shared spirit that’s good to see.

Kind of like the good you’ll do when you use 811, and pass it along.

If every person who uses South Dakota 811 would tell just five people about this service – just think how many more people we could educate on the importance and use of the 811 call before you dig system.

It’s a free call.  It’s a free locate.   What could be easier?

You can even use it as a conversation starter:

YOU:               Have you ever thought about those little colored flags  in the ground?

FRIEND:         No, not really.  I wonder what they mean?

YOU:               Oh, I can tell you!  And also why they’re important!

FRIEND:         Wow!  I’ll certainly use 811 the next time I do any digging!

See how easy it is?   Like the Ice Bucket and the Lip Synch challenge, just pass it along!

Letting people know about South Dakota 811 is not only the neighborly thing to do – it’s the right thing to do.

It’s so easy to pass 811 along.

You won’t get doused with ice, and no one will make a video of you – but you’ll still know you are doing the right thing.

Until next week, safe digging!

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