Become a partner in damage prevention and follow these important steps when planning any type of project that involves digging, regardless of the project size or depth.

1. Pre-mark the Proposed Dig Area

Once you have determined where you want to dig, pre-mark the area using white paint, stakes or flags. The Act requires excavators to pre-mark the area when practical. This allows member locators to understand the size and scope of your project.

According to the Illinois Commerce Commission One-Call Enforcement Staff, “when practical” is not a statement of convenience, but is used as it relates to scope. A verbal pre-mark in place of paint, stakes, or flags is allowed if a narrow and explicit distance and direction of the proposed work are provided.

Pre-marking is the process of marking the dig area with white paint and/or white flags prior to contacting JULIE. In winter months, black paint or flags may be used when snow is present. Pre-marking allows member locators to complete their work more efficiently and makes it easier for excavation crews to identify the dig area.

Pre-marking Tips

  • Use only white paint and/or flags or black when snow is present.
  • Pre-mark the site with 6” to 12” dashes, lines or arrows.
  • The width of the marking should be approximately 2”.
  • Marks should be spaced for easy visibility from one mark to the next.
  • Always provide a path width on linear work or a radius on point work and any additional area beyond bounded pre-marked areas if needed.

2. Click or Call Before You Dig

Now that you have scoped out your work area, the next step is submitting a locate request through JULIE.

Information needed

It’s easy…and it’s FREE. But first, have the following information handy to speed up the process:

  • Contact name, email and phone number
  • Property address including county, city or township, street and nearest cross street or the location if not at an addressed site
  • Type of work and location of project
  • Special instructions about the property or project
  • Earliest date and time the project will start
    • The law requires you contact JULIE at least 2 business days before you plan to start excavation. But don’t submit a request for work that’s more than 14 calendar days in the future. Calls or E-Requests received after 4 p.m. will be processed as if received at 8 a.m. the next business day. Weekends and JULIE recognized holidays are not considered business days when scheduling.
  • Include Proper Site Contact
    • Members’ locators may have questions regarding the worksite. Please include a contact that is knowledgeable about the site and the work to be performed.

Ways to submit a request

3. Wait the Required Amount of Time

Two business days

You may not begin your excavation before the dig start date and time listed on the notice, even if all the underground utility facilities have been marked. State law requires your excavation project to begin within 14 calendar days of the issuance of your Dig Number.

Dig number

  • You will be provided with a Dig Number that identifies specific information about your locate request.

  • It is important that you retain this number as proof of your contact with JULIE. You will need to refer to your Dig Number if it becomes necessary for you to call JULIE for a second request at your excavation site. JULIE call center agents are available 24/7 to assist with any questions.

Ticket life

  • Valid JULIE locate requests are good for 28 calendar days including the day of the call. For example, a locate request called in on the first day of the month is valid until 11:59 PM on the 28th day of the same month.
  • Excavation MUST begin within 14 calendar days of the initial locate request to be considered to have a valid request. However, the 14-day restriction does not apply to any subsequent calls (extend, re-mark, etc.) on the same Dig Number.
  • Requesting an extension
    • An excavator can extend a normal notice locate request ticket online between day 20 and day 28 using our free online tool known as Remark-Extend-View (REV) or by calling 811 or 1 (800) 892-0123. Extended tickets will receive a new 28-day ticket life that starts on the date the extension request was made.
  • Important things to know about ticket types:
    • Only new or normal notice locate request tickets can be extended. Emergency, damage, planning/design stage, and joint meet notices cannot be extended.
    • No changes can be made to the jobsite address, extent of work or work type on an extended locate request ticket. A new locate request must be issued if any of these changes are required.
      Re-marks can be added to an extended locate request to specify a certain area be re-marked instead of the entire scope provided on the initial locate request.
    • Extended locate request tickets are considered a request for utility marks unless the caller specifically states no marks are needed. If marks are requested, they require two business days advance notice. Extensions requested within the last two calendar days of a locate request may delay your excavation project until the member facility owners have marked.
    • Locate request extensions maintain the same Dig Number as the initial locate request for a period of up to five months from the initial call. Projects that require a longer period to complete will
      be issued a new Dig Number at the end of the five-month period.
    • JULIE’s servers will conduct a new member lookup during each extend operation to see if there is a new underground utility facility owner near the jobsite to be notified.
  • Re-mark vs. extension
    • If weather, construction activity or vandalism erode the markings, a request for Re-mark is necessary.
    • A Re-mark request does not extend the ticket life. The excavator must specifically request an extension if the project is scheduled to go beyond the 28-day ticket life.

While JULIE agents and online request options are available on JULIE recognized holidays, members usually have crews on call to handle emergencies only. Therefore, in addition to weekends, the following days are not included in the determination of the two business days:

  • New Year’s Day
  • Memorial Day
  • Independence Day
  • Labor Day
  • Thanksgiving Day
  • Friday after Thanksgiving Day
  • Christmas Day

If a holiday falls on a Saturday, the previous Friday is observed. If the holiday falls on a Sunday, the following Monday is observed.

4. Respect the Marks

After receiving notification from JULIE, member companies may use a combination of flags, stakes or paint as dig site and seasonal conditions warrant. If the approximate location of an underground utility facility is marked with paint, stakes or other physical means, the following color code is employed:

    • RED – Electric
    • YELLOW – Gas, oil, petroleum
    • ORANGE – Communications
    • BLUE – Potable water
    • PURPLE – Irrigation, reclaimed water
    • GREEN – Sewer

Other colors of flags or paint you may see at a dig site include white, which shows the extent of the excavation area and is used in pre-marking prior to making a locate request, or pink which indicates
a temporary survey.

Once the marks are placed, it is the responsibility of the excavator to maintain those marks.


Members’ locate staff are marking the approximate location of the underground utility facilities. “Approximate location” is a strip of land 17 at least 3 feet wide, but not wider than the width of the underground utility facility plus 1.5 feet on either side of the facility based upon the markings made by the owner or operator of the facility. To verify the location of the underground utility facility, employ hand or vacuum excavation methods to the depth of your proposed excavation and visually inspect the excavation while in progress until clear of the existing marked facility.


If a JULIE member company has no underground utility facilities in the proposed area of the excavation, they are required by law to communicate this to the excavator by the requested dig start date and time on the notice. For Emergency Requests, notification should occur within two hours or by the date and time requested, whichever is later.

Notification can be done by:

  • Face-to-face communication
  • Phone or phone message
  • Email
  • Text
  • Fax machine
  • Posting or marking in the excavation area

5. Dig with Care

Tolerance zone

  • The tolerance zone is defined as a strip of land at least 3 feet wide, but not wider than the width of the underground utility facility plus 1.5 feet on either side of such facility based upon the markings made by the owner or operator of the facility.
  • Excavators should plan the excavation or demolition to avoid or minimize interference with underground utility facilities within the tolerance zone.
  • Working within the tolerance zone requires an excavator to utilize precautions that include, but are not limited to, hand or vacuum excavation methods to the depth of the proposed excavation, and visually inspecting the excavation while in progress until clear of the existing marked facility.

Private Facilities

JULIE member companies only mark the underground utility facilities they operate and/or maintain. They do not mark private underground lines which are lines installed beyond the JULIE member company’s ownership. These lines are considered customer-owned or private lines.

Examples of private lines may include but are not limited to:

  • Natural gas or underground piping or any other type of line to a garage or an out building
  • Propane lines
  • Lines to gas grills and pool heaters
  • Private water systems
  • Septic systems
  • Drain lines from downspouts
  • Underground sprinkler systems
  • Electric lines installed after the meter
  • Invisible pet fences
  • Data communications lines
  • Sewer service lines
  • Water service lines
  • Geothermal systems
  • Solar systems

Water member companies mark the main lines in easements and right-of-ways and in most cases, lines to a water meter or curb valve, whichever is closest to the main line. However, they may not mark the water lines to and from a meter or curb valve to a home or building. Sewer member companies mark the main lines but may not mark any portion of a lateral service to a home or building. Check with your local water or sewer provider to determine their marking standards.

Electric member companies usually mark the lines to the meter at residential properties, but not those running to swimming pool pumps and heaters, irrigation systems or other buildings on the property. Commercial property owners should check with their electric company to determine if any or all of the electric lines will be marked by the electric company.

Private lines will be part of almost every job. Take time to survey the job site for signs of private lines:

  • Is there a propane storage tank on the property?
  • Is there a detached garage or outbuilding with services from the main building?
  • Is there a pool heater or gas grill?
  • Did you notice an underground sprinkler system or pet fence?
  • Is there any above ground evidence of a facility buried in your excavation area that may not be owned by a JULIE member company?

Take a few moments to review these issues with the property owner prior to beginning your excavation, but keep in mind that previous property owners may have installed lines that the current owners don’t know about.

Do not dig until the buried lines are identified and marked. JULIE member companies DO NOT mark privately installed lines. These lines can be marked by hiring a private locator.

If Damage Occurs

Even the most cautious excavator or homeowner can occasionally cause damage to a buried line. If an underground utility facility is damaged or dislocated, state law requires that the person responsible for the
excavation or demolition immediately notify the affected utility and JULIE at 811 or 1 (800) 892-0123.

Please be prepared to give the following information to the JULIE agent:

  • JULIE Dig Number
  • Type of underground line damaged (pipe, cable, etc.)
  • Affected utility, if known
  • The location of the damaged underground line at the job site

JULIE’s agents may be able to assist with contact numbers for notifying JULIE member companies.

In the event of damage to an underground utility facility that results in the escape of a flammable, toxic, or corrosive gas or liquid, the person responsible for the excavation or demolition must:

  • Immediately stop digging and evacuate the area
  • Call 911 and notify authorities
  • Contact the owners of the underground lines
  • Contact JULIE

DO NOT attempt to repair, clamp or constrict a damaged utility line unless under the direct supervision of the utility owner.

Cleanup of Job Site/Removal of Flags

When the job is complete, take the time to backfill properly. Remove large rocks, sharp objects, and large chunks to reduce the risk of damage while backfilling around underground utility facilities. All marking flags should be removed from the job site as the final step prior to leaving the area.


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