Celebrate your shovel during National Safe Digging Month

Behold the power of the shovel. Did you know this simple tool can keep our system safe, reduce your carbon footprint and help improve the energy efficiency of your home? April is National Safe Digging Month, and Black Hills Energy is spotlighting this humble and historic instrument.

Shovels keep our system safe and reliable. An important part of National Safe Digging Month is to encourage people to click or call 811 before they dig. It’s free, it’s safe and it’s the law. Calling 811 or visiting www.call811.com to submit a request at least two full days before you start your project will show you where it’s safe to break ground. If there are line marks where your project is planned, you should grab your shovel and carefully hand-dig near where utilities are indicated. Carefully using your shovel around critical infrastructure will help keep our system safe and reliable for everyone.

Shovels help improve our environment. Arbor Day, a national holiday to celebrate how trees enrich our lives, is celebrated on April 29, along with Earth Day on April 22—and both occur within National Safe Digging Month. To celebrate, we’re encouraging you to reach for your favorite pointed digger and plant a free tree from Black Hills Energy. We’re serious about steps to improve the environment, and you can sign up for a free Arbor Day Foundation Energy-Saving Tree from Black Hills Energy at www.arborday.org/blackhillsenergy starting April 22. These 3- to 4-foot trees will arrive by mail in May or early June and are small enough that they can be planted by you with your new favorite household tool after you’ve contacted 811. Planting a tree can help improve your community’s air quality, reduce stormwater runoff, reduce the urban heat island effect and provide benefits for years to come.

Shovels are an important tool to increase energy efficiency. Did you know using your shovel to safely plant your free Black Hills Energy tree can save up to 20% on energy costs? By visiting the same website, www.arborday.com/blackhillsenergy, you can determine the best location to plant your tree to maximize your future energy-savings benefit. In the summer, trees provide important relief from the sun as shade to help cool your home. In the winter, they can act as a windbreak to dissipate the harsh winter winds that test the weatherstripping of your home. The best time to use your shovel to plant a tree was 10 years ago. The second-best time to use it is today.

As residents and businesses start heading outside to get started on projects, know that damage to a utility line occurs every six minutes nationally, and one-third of those incidents are caused by unsafe digging practices. Black Hills Energy urges you to practice safe digging techniques this April and beyond because failure to do so could mean costly repairs and fines for not following local regulations, disruptive utility outages, medical bills from dangerous line strikes or worse.

This April, we want you to appreciate the power of your shovel. It can keep our system safe and reliable, improve our environment and enhance your energy efficiency. Visit www.blackhillsenergy.com/811 to learn more about safe digging.

—James Williams is the senior community affairs program manager with Black Hills Energy, Wichita, Kansas.