Dig safely this spring, call 811

By Kelly McCarthy

March 6, 2014 Updated Mar 6, 2014 at 7:41 PM EDT

Binghamton, NY (WBNG Binghamton) Once all the snow and ice begin to melt, people will be starting their spring outdoor projects and landscaping. But before they break out the tools they should know the Dig Safely New York number.

Dig Safely New York said 811 could be the most important numbers for homeowners and excavators to remember. Dialing 811 before you dig can avoid serious injuries or accidents.

"Twenty-five percent of the damages in New York State last year were a result of not calling before you dig," said Kevin Hopper, Operations Manager for Dig Safely NY, "So we want to make sure that we can eliminate those, first step, make the call."

Dig Safely New York is making nine stops across the state to train more than a thousand excavators on safe digging practices.

"A homeowner, excavator, it doesn't matter," Hopper said, "If you're putting a shovel in the ground or a major piece of backhoe, we want you to call 811 and get the utility lines marked."

Dig Safely New York hosted a training seminar Thursday at the DoubleTree by Hilton. Among the crowd of professionals is one man who had his own near-death experience during a dig.

"Twenty-seven years old, you know bullet proof kid, accidents not going to happen to me, we were working a six and a half foot trench, and the trench caved in on me I was buried for 10 minutes," said Eric Giguere of Safety Awareness Solutions, "You know I was scared, I was panicked, I was trying to get out, I couldn't breathe I was being crushed, ultimately I blacked out and that's the last thing I remember."

That was Giguere's last time digging. Now he travels to seminars like the one on Thursday to share his story, and how dialing 811 can save others the same troubles.

"We're just going to get some information on where you're digging," Hopper said, "When you're digging, and then we'll notify the area utilities for you so that they can come out and mark what's underground so that you can dig safely."

For any digging project, big or small, professional or Do-It-Yourself calling 811 should be first on the to-do list.

Dig Safely New York asks everyone to call 811 two days before their planned dig.

All calls are free and take on average three minutes to complete.