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MEDIA CONTACT: Leah Mohr, South Dakota Public Utilities Commission, (605) 773-3201 or (605) 280-4327

Calling 811 remains an essential safety step, even during a pandemic.

PIERRE, S.D. – In light of the coronavirus pandemic, the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission is urging South Dakotans to be especially vigilant about utilizing 811’s Call Before You Dig service to mark underground utilities and to exercise extreme caution with excavating projects.

“Underground utilities are always essential to the health and safety of South Dakota citizens, but with the current COVID-19 pandemic, these utility services are more important than ever,” said PUC Chairman Gary Hanson. “Hospitals and their staffs rely on electricity and broadband networks to provide the best care for those in need. Our health care systems are already being stretched thin and damage to these utilities would only cause further strain to those on the front lines,” he continued.

Whether you’re landscaping, starting to build a new home, or putting up a new fence, calling 811 at least two days before starting any kind of digging should always be your first step. Those two days give utility providers time to go out and mark all the natural gas, electricity, communications, water and sewer lines on your property. This simple step helps avoid injury to those working and damage to the essential infrastructure that not only keeps utilities functioning properly, but also connects you to the world outside your front door.

“Each of us has been asked to do our part to flatten the curve of COVID-19 by practicing social distancing and making major changes to our daily routines. These necessary changes have made access to quality broadband more essential now than ever before. With students using distance learning to continue their education and many adults working from home, we really rely on quality internet to function in our everyday lives. Preserving those connections by following safe digging practices is important,” stated PUC Vice Chairman Chris Nelson.

Uneven surfaces, erosion and previous digging projects can all cause the depths of utility lines to vary and change over time, enhancing the risk of hitting an underground utility. For this reason, every digging project warrants a call to 811. Striking even a single line can result in service disruptions, serious injuries, and costly repairs.

“Coronavirus has caused a lot of uncertainty but one thing you can be certain of is calling 811 will help ensure you remain safe and connected while working outdoors. Spending a little time outdoors is important for our health; especially during this outbreak when we’re spending so much time at home. Remember whether you’re working, playing or just soaking up some sun, practicing safe distancing is an essential step to help flatten the curve no matter where you are,” said Commissioner Kristie Fiegen.  

South Dakota 811 is a free service. Homeowners and excavators with upcoming, outdoor construction projects must contact the South Dakota 811 center 48 hours before digging, excluding weekends and holidays. The center will then quickly notify all affected utility companies of your upcoming excavation plans and utility companies will dispatch crews to mark the underground lines at the respective dig site. To learn more about 811 and safe digging practices, visit