PSE&G wants to remind New Jersey residents that it's the law to call 811 before starting any improvement project that involves digging. It's not only a free call, it's also the law.

Besides breaking the law, there are other consequences if a homeowner does not call before they dig, said PSE&G process analyst Chelsey Van Heest.

People are at risk of causing a serious incident. She said by calling 811, it allows utility companies to mark out where their underground equipment may be. Without these marks, a homeowner may hit a buried electric, gas, water or cable line. This could disrupt utility service, cost money to repair, and even cause severe injury or death.

Every digging project, big or small, requires a call to 811, Van Heest said. Sure, the typical construction and demolition projects require a call but so do many do-it-yourself projects that homeowners may not know about. Planting a flowerbed, installing a mailbox or a fence, putting in a realtor's signs or an above-ground pool all require a phone call beforehand.

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"Calling 811 is the law and it's the smart and safe thing to do. If you're a homeowner hiring a contractor, you should also confirm that they've made a call to 811 and that a markout was completed before they start the work," Van Heest said.

Residents should call at least three, and no more than 10 business days before work begins. Once a person calls in for a markout, that person will receive a markout ticket with information on it which indicates the start date, start-by-date and the expiration date. Van Heest said if there's a delay in the project and the homeowner can't start within those 10 days, he or she will have to call in for another ticket.

She said also keep in mind that markouts remain valid for 45 business days only. So if a homeowner's project goes longer than that, again, he or she will have to call in for another markout ticket. Any deviation from that is considered illegal excavation.

Once the call is made, the resident will be connected to New Jersey One Call, which collects information about the upcoming digging project. That information is then given to the utility companies.

When the utility company comes to a home, it may hire a third party to do a markout. The representative will come to the property, locate the underground equipment, then use either paint, whiskers, flags or stakes to mark the area with the appropriate color designated for that utility type.

The various colors used when marking lines can be found at www.nj1-call.org/resources/faqs/#color.

Once the facility operation performs the locate, the customer will receive a confirmation that the utility has made the markout and work can begin. She said it's very important to never move the markouts so the excavation can safely be done.

In 2020, PS&G responded to 913 excavating damages: 756 of them were gas and 157 were electric.

Beautiful sunflower fields to visit in NJ 2021

Among reasons why the “Garden State” remains a fitting nickname for New Jersey — late summer means the arrival of sunflower season.

There are at least six fields, spanning the state. Some are in bloom as of early August, while others are planned to peak from late August to late September.

Calling or emailing before heading out is always advisable if weather appears to be an issue.