Thursday, May 1, 2008

Mississippi is Using Horse Sense

The following article appeared in the Rankin Ledger (MS) on April 29, 2008. It was a Special to The Clinton News.

One Call Network' designed to avert accidents.'

Mississippi has taken a major step to increase public safety and decrease costs associated with construction project accidents by passing a law to expand the state's "One Call" network, officials with Atmos Energy said.

If the bill is approved by Gov. Haley Barbour, effective July 1, every private and public entity in the state that operates underground facilities will be required to join the Mississippi One Call Network.

"This law is good for the safety of our citizens and it makes good business sense as well," Sam Johnson, executive director of Mississippi One Call, said in a news release. "Now there is no excuse for not knowing where underground utilities are located in an area where anyone is digging. Just dial 811 and get the area marked."

The bill was passed overwhelmingly by the Legislature in April and Barbour has until mid-May to sign it. The governor has also declared May "Safe Digging Month in Mississippi."

"Each year, people are killed or injured and millions of dollars of property is damaged or destroyed nationwide because digging devices come into contact with gas, electric, water or other lines that are buried in the area where work is being done," Johnson said. "The strong support for this law shows that safety is a bipartisan issue."

Calling 8-1-1 before starting a project connects the person digging to the Mississippi One-Call System (MOCS), a computerized information center located in Jackson. MOCS then determines what entities - public and private - have underground utilities in the area. After MOCS contacts all of them, the individual companies send crews to mark their lines on the property, enabling the person or crew digging in an area to steer clear of underground pipes and wires.

"More and more states are considering laws similar to what we have just passed in Mississippi," said Johnson, "Until now, membership in Mississippi One Call was voluntary; meaning our records only reflected the companies and municipalities that participated."

The new law marks the first significant expansion of MOCS since the service was established 24 years ago. Many Mississipians are still not aware that by dialing 811 they can have homes, businesses or any construction area searched for underground lines before they dig.

"Dialing three digits is all they need to do to be sure," said Johnson. "It does not cost the person calling us - our members pick up the costs of the marking."

For companies such as Atmos Energy, which both operates underground gas lines and has crews that dig year-round, paying to be part of MOCS is money well-spent.

"Safety is our top priority and we believe One Call is the most important service to prevent injuries that happen when people accidentally hit utility lines of any kind," David Gates, president of Atmos Mississippi said in a news release. "Also, the costs associated with locating lines are minimal when you compare them with the costs associated with making emergency repairs to facilities that have been damaged."

For more in formation about the Mississippi One Call Network, go to

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