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Before planting a tree, building a deck, or even replacing or relocating your mailbox post, think about what could lurk below. The regional utility company Eversource is partnering with electrical, gas, telecommunications and public water suppliers across the nation reminding weekend warriors and contractors that power digging equipment, and even small hand tools such as spades, axes and picks, can damage underground utility lines, resulting in serious personal injury and disrupted services.

That means anyone planning an outdoor project involving digging should call 811 beforehand so operators can notify applicable local utilities of an intent to dig. Then, professional locators can respond to mark utility-owned underground lines with flags, spray paint or both to indicate which areas to avoid.

A growing number of electric utilities, including Eversource, are also providing a new service for customers planning to work near overhead electric wires. By notifying participating electric suppliers five to seven business days before pruning branches, shingling the roof or painting the house trim, crew members can cover electric lines with a rubber protective covering to make the area safer at no charge. Customers are reminded to always remain at least 10 feet away from overhead wires.

The company also recommends these additional safety tips while working around the house:

  • Check for overhead lines when using ladders to clean gutters or a long-handled pool vacuum that could reach within 10 feet of the lines.
  • Don’t let Mylar balloons become a party spoiler. Always keep them tethered and attached to weights, because the metallic coating on these balloons can cause a power outage if they contact overhead electrical equipment.
  • Never attempt to retrieve a balloon, kite or other debris that is entangled in an overhead power line. Instead, report it to your utility provider so a lineworker can safely remove it.
  • If using power tools to work outside, make sure extension cords are marked for outdoor use and rated for the power needs of tools being used. Also, check to be sure that cords aren’t frayed or cracked. Damaged or overloaded cords may lead to electric shock and serious injury.

John Voket is a contributing editor to RISMedia.

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