Call 8-1-1 before you dig!

Wanda English Burnett


The message was simple. Calling three numbers, 8-1-1 before you dig, can save lives and it’s the law.
Mark Courtney with Paradigm Liaison Services, LLC, a company that specializes in pipeline emergency response and damage prevention training, presented a wealth of information at a training held February 4 at St. Leon.

But, the most simplistic training that encompasses everything taught is that before anyone moves any earth - digging for any reason, you must always call 811 first.

“One thing we will learn here tonight is always, always call before we dig,” Courtney stressed. Sure enough when all the questions were answered via an electronic device - the question of what number to call before digging received 100% knowing the correct answer.

A diverse group gathered at the American Legion at St. Leon to learn more about pipeline safety. Some local agencies participating in the training included the Versailles, Osgood, and Sunman police departments; Ripley County Emergency Management Agency; Sunman, Batesville, Morris, and Oldenburg fire departments, among many other agencies.

While the training was primarily targeted to the agencies represented, the instructor made it clear, calling before moving earth is everyone’s responsibility.

Courtney, a 26-year law enforcement veteran from Marion County, stressed the safety factor of finding out where pipelines are buried. He noted there are millions of miles of pipelines criss-crossing the nation. While most are underground and are the safest way to transport commodities such as petroleum, natural gas, and propane, the danger comes when people compromise the pipelines by disturbing them.
Some indicators that a pipeline has erupted were given.

The visual signs could be liquid on the ground in the area of a pipeline warning marker. There could be a rainbow sheen on water, dead vegetation in an otherwise green area, dirt blowing in the air, a white vapor cloud, mud or water bubbling up or a frozen area on the ground.

You might detect an odor such as gas or oil. Remember though that natural gas is colorless and odorless unless Mercaptan has been added, which means you will smell a rotten egg odor.

If a pipeline has a release, you might hear a hissing or roaring sound.

Other signs could be your eyes, nose or throat may burn or you may experience nausea if you’re in an affected area.

Call authorities immediately. Do not attempt to check out anything on your own - your life depends on it.

Courtney pointed out that intentionally damaging or removing a warning marker is a federal violation.
Every day over 20 million barrels of liquid products are transported in our country. Over 21 trillion cubic feet of natural gas flows each year. Armed with this knowledge, Courtney encouraged everyone to do their part to make sure this quiet flow of vital product remains a safe process.

Call before you dig, wait the required amount of time, respect the markings a trained technician will place at no cost to you, then dig with care.

The law requires that if anyone is involved in the demolition of a pipeline facility and becomes aware of damage to the pipeline, they must immediately report the damage to authorities.

Courtney has an impressive resume including membership to the International Law Enforcements Educators and Trainers Association, co-founding an organization to provide law enforcement style training to local security companies, instructing numerous law enforcement trainings, and is certified as a trainer in the National Association of State Fire Marshals Pipeline Emergencies course.

He is also a member of the Indiana Chapter of InfraGard, an FBI sponsored organization dedicated to protecting the US infrastructure which includes the pipeline and energy industries.

Courtney taught the 2010 Pipeline Emergency Response & Damage Prevention Training program with expertise, making sure all attendees knew the perils of what can happen when the flow through pipelines is disrupted.

He also impressed the law when it comes to pipelines and the number to “always, always call before digging is 811.” You can also call 1-800-382-5544.

Whether working on a large construction project or putting up a fence, planting a garden or tree- always call - pipelines are everywhere!

Pictured from left are Versaille
s Deputy Marshal Lee Mathews, Reserve Deputy Marshal David Bruns, Sunman Police Department, and Sunman Town Marshal Bill Dramann. Others attending the pipeline seminar included both the Osgood and Versailles town marshals, Joe Mann, and John Hegge and officers from their departments as well as representatives from many local fire departments and Ripley County Emergency Management Agency.