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Starting spring yard work? To stay safe, call before you dig

Image of a person digging in a yard
Before you start any gardening projects this spring and summer, make a free call to BC One Call to learn about any buried power lines or gas pipes on your property.

12% of power lines are below ground. BC One Call will tell you where they are

Posted by Jacqueline Lambert

Spring is here and sunny weather is on the horizon, making it the perfect time to get started on all those outdoor projects that piled up on the household to-do list during the winter months.

Before I tell you about my own experience using BC One Call before starting a family gardening project, here are a couple quick things to consider as you start work around your home in the spring.

  • If you're trimming trees or clearing gutters your chores could take you close to power lines. It's important to remember that electricity can "arc" or jump from power lines across a gap, to tools or ladders that you're using. Always maintain a safe distance from power lines: stay back at least three metres (10 feet) from any power lines near your home.
  • It's also important to keep transformer boxes accessible so technicians can quickly access them during emergencies and outages. If there is one on your property, remember to keep a minimum of 2.5 metres of clearance in front of the doors. The other three sides must have 1 metre (3.3 feet) of clearance. Add pruning and trimming the plants you've planted around the ground-level transformer to your spring to-do list.

But power lines and hazards aren't just overhead or above ground.

Be aware of underground power lines, gas lines and other utilities to stay safe

Maybe you're planning to fix that section of fence that fell down a few months back during the winter windstorm. Or perhaps you're finally motivated to plot out some space in your backyard to plant a vegetable garden. If so, it's important to avoid a dangerous accident by being aware of underground wires or pipes that could be buried on your property or near your jobsite.

BC Hydro has about 9,200 kilometres of transmission and distribution lines, or roughly 12 per cent of our system, underground throughout B.C. Contacting these hidden underground power lines could be fatal, and striking or rupturing an underground gas line while digging can create an unsafe situation for you and your neighbours.

Whether your project is big or small, the best way to ensure your safety is by getting in touch with BC One Call. It's free and easy. Within three days of your initial phone call, you will have information about what is buried in your yard and where it's unsafe to dig or excavate. Plus, you'll have someone you can contact at each utility and your municipality if you need any help or require more information.

Knowledge is power: my experience with BC One Call

When my parents started throwing around the idea of expanding our garden this spring, I asked them if they knew if there were any wires or pipes going through our yard. They weren't too sure, so I decided to go ahead and investigate.

I started with contacting BC One Call and was impressed by how simple the entire process was.

So how does it work?

  1. You can start by giving them a call, or submitting an e-ticket on their website. Call 604 257 1940 in the Lower Mainland, or 1 800 474 6886 toll-free elsewhere in B.C.
  2. I took the e-ticket route, and filled out the homeowners form.

The form didn't take too long to fill out. You'll be asked to provide some basic contact information, and your address. I also provided some specific details about our proposed garden dig. The location, depth, width and length of my project were required, as well as how we were planning to dig, whether by machine, or by using hand tools.

  1. I finished off the form by letting them know when I planned on beginning the work, and selecting the type of work, in this case gardening.
  2. The next morning I received an email confirmation informing me that BC One Call had notified BC Hydro, FortisBC and the Corporation of Delta (where we live) about my proposed plans. TELUS had already provided clearance for my area, letting me know there were no underground lines nearby.
  3. The Corporation of Delta replied a few hours later, emailing me detailed water, drainage and sewer maps for my neighbourhood. FortisBC and BC Hydro got in touch the next day, attaching gas and distribution line location maps for my area along with some additional safety information about working around underground lines. Each organization provided contact information so we could reach out if we had any further questions.
  4. Within 48 hours, my family had all the information we needed to make an informed decision about whether it was realistic to expand our garden or not. The process was seamless. Plus, the general information is good to have on hand, if any problems arise in the future, such as with sewer lines or water mains on our property.
Image showing map of BC Hydro distribution lines
Within three days calling BC One Call or using their online form, you'll be emailed information about what's buried in your yard and where it's unsafe to dig or excavate. This image details the location of BC Hydro distribution power lines in a neighbourhood.

Call BC One Call before you dig

Calling BC One Call is free, easy and it could save your life. Contacting hidden underground power lines, gas lines or conduits could be fatal.

Find out where it's safe to dig:

Jacqueline Lambert is a member of BC Hydro's digital communications team.