Spring is here, which means it's time to dust off the power tools and begin those outdoor projects. Before you start digging into the yard though, Atmos Energy wants you to play it safe and call 811 to have all your buried utility lines marked for free.

“Studies show that careless digging damages an underground utility line every three minutes in the United State,” said John McDill, Atmos Energy's vice president of pipeline safety. “The leading cause of pipeline damage is the result of excavation, and failure to call 811 certainly contributes to the problem.”

April is National Safe Digging Month and is a reminder that careless digging can affect an entire community. In fact, nearly 60 percent of all incidents involving natural gas distribution pipelines result from excavation damage, according to the American Gas Association.

“Underground utility lines are widespread, and just about any digging poses a danger unless all lines are located and marked in advance, McDill said, “Futhermore, digging covers more than just professional excavating and building projects. It includes many summertime home-improvement and do-it-yourself projects, such as constructing a patio or deck, building a fence, adding trees and landscaping, installing a sprinkler system, even putting in a mail box.”

In Texas, it is state law that you must call 811 in advance. Texas requires at least three full business days' notice before excavation begins. For more information about the toll-free 811 service, visit: www.atmosenergy.com.

Buried utility lines are marked using the following universal color chart for different utility services; red- electric; orange- Communications, Telephone/CATV; blue- Portable Water; green- Sewer/Drainage; and yellow-Gas/Petroleum Pipe Line.