It was time for Joe to replace a few fence posts on his family’s farm. Those posts were likely older than him.

Meanwhile, at a house in town, Karen was making plans to replace her once beautiful hydrangea the deer had nibbled down.

Both Joe and Karen knew about 811, the free service that arranges for professionals to mark the location of underground utility lines. But neither called. In the farmer’s mind he was only replacing the post, not digging a new hole. And Karen just didn’t see how planting a shrub would require all that to-do. But Joe didn’t know a gas line had been installed after the original fence post had been dug. As for Karen, her hydrangea hole was nearly two feet deep—just at the depth of her natural gas service line.

Fortunately, Joe and Karen were lucky. They missed hitting the line, which could have resulted in fines and interrupted service to others. Most importantly, no one was hurt. A hit line carries the potential for serious injury and expensive property damage.

No matter what, the law requires that you call 811 to have underground utility lines marked before you break ground. That’s true whether you’re a homeowner setting a fencepost or a contractor conducting a large excavation.

You can also enter your request at

“Safety is always our first priority at Black Hills Energy, and we want to help our customers stay safe,” said Wes Ashton, Black Hills Energy’s Iowa vice president of natural gas operations. “When you’re planning to dig, don’t make a judgment call, make a phone call; call 811 at least two business days before you plan to dig.”

Visit for more information about 811 and safe digging practices.

And call 811 before you dig: It’s free, it’s safe and it’s the law.