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Lawmakers expand ‘one call’ law

A bill pending before the governor would require all private and public companies that run underground lines to join Mississippi’s “One Call” network.

Gov. Haley Barbour has until May 12 to act on the bill, which passed the House and Senate in the closing week of the session. If signed, the bill would take effect July 1.

The “One Call” network was created in 1984.

Calling 811 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.

“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 Monday in a statement.

“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.”

Johnson said people are killed or injured each year 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 right now, participation in MOCS is voluntary. He said the MOCS records only show the companies and municipalities that participated.

He said many Mississippians are still not aware that by simply 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.”

David Gates, president of Atmos Mississippi, said the natural gas supplier has underground lines and crews that dig year-round. He said MOCS has helped prevent injuries that happen when people accidentally hit utility lines.

“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,” Gates said.

The bill is House Bill 1215.

On the Net:

Mississippi One Call Network, http://www.ms1call.org