Striking Underground Utilities is a Recipe for Disaster

These incidents are preventable, and we can show you how.


Striking an underground utility line can have significant consequences.

Beyond the financial expense of repairs, impacts to the environment and surrounding communities can be substantial.

In Huntsville, Alabama, a family of seven saw their house explode after an independent contractor struck a gas line while working in the area.

Residents of an O’Fallon, Missouri neighborhood had to flee their homes numerous times during a months-long saga in which crews repeatedly severed gas lines while installing fiber broadband cable.

A firefighter tragically lost his life in an explosion that leveled a city block in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin. As was the case in O’Fallon, a gas line was struck as workers laid fiber optic cable lines.


Utility locating companies like GPRS use sophisticated technology like ground penetrating radar (GPR) to find subsurface obstructions before they can be struck during a construction project.

Thankfully, there are ways to prevent these accidents. Partnering with a utility locating company like GPRS can help municipalities and businesses navigate subsurface obstructions, avoiding costly downtime, legal settlements, and lost productivity.

According to a Common Ground Alliance report, the costs of damages caused by utility strikes surpassed $40 billion in 2021 alone. The privately funded Infrastructure Protection Coalition puts the figure closer to $61 billion. Alongside direct costs, such as repairs, the figures include indirect expenses, such as medical care and settlements.

It's not just the financial costs at stake, as sewer or gas line breaks can lead to the contamination of nearby water sources and soils.

Prior to commencing any drilling or excavation, it is essential to observe all necessary precautions. This starts with implementing an expansive Ground Disturbance Policy that requires the use of specialized equipment, such as ground-penetrating radar (GPR) and electromagnetic (EM) locators, to detect underground utilities before excavation commences. GPR detects buried or hidden components by using radio waves, identifying both metallic and non-metallic objects for a range of applications. EM locators complement GPR as they offer another solution for locating underground utilities. These devices consist of a transmitter and receiver that emit a selected frequency to detect utility locations.

Workers should also be trained in safe excavation techniques according to your Ground Disturbance Policy. Such techniques include the use of hand tools to prevent accidental striking of buried utility lines. Concrete Sawing & Drilling Safety Week, Concrete Safety Week, and other safety initiatives offer crucial training to your team members to ensure they can work safely on the job site.

Moreover, it is critical to call 811 before any digging. This nationwide toll-free number connects a locator who will mark out the approximated locations of all public utilities on your job site. The demarcation line between public and private utilities typically ends at the meter, ground transformer, shutoff valve, or termination box, and private property owners are responsible for the lines from this point.

By using both 811 and a private utility locator such as GPRS, you can have a comprehensive picture of what may be beneath your feet, giving you peace of mind. Striking an underground utility could lead to significant financial, environmental, and social consequences. With robust safety protocols, proper planning, and effective communication of Ground Disturbance Policies, construction companies can avoid incidents and keep their workers and communities safe.

GPRS’ elite team of Project Managers use only the most advanced technology to conduct our utility locating and concrete scanning services, so you know precisely what’s underground before you dig. We utilize both ground penetrating radar (GPR) and electromagnetic (EM) locators to find all subsurface obstructions that could cause catastrophe if struck.

With over 350,000 projects completed and a better than 99.8% accuracy rating on those jobs, GPRS is a utility locating and precision concrete company you can rely on. We have teams strategically stationed in every major market across the country, which means you always have a reliable private utility locating service near you.

We’re here to Intelligently Visualize The Built World™. What can we help you visualize?