DENVER (KDVR) — As the weather warms up and homeowners start planning to get their gardens ready, experts say there is a critical step that needs to be at the top of everyone’s to-do list. 

“It’s really important anyone who’s going to be digging contacts 811 beforehand,” Whitney Nichols with Colorado 811 said. 

Colorado 811 is a nonprofit that links anyone in Colorado that needs to dig with underground utility owners who can locate lines. 

“When you dial 811, you’ll contact us, we process your request and then we notify the utility companies. They send out professional locators to put paint and flag the ground so when you start digging, you can avoid damaging any underground utility lines,” Nichols said. 

The free service is available for projects of all sizes, including backyard gardening. 

“Some people think, I’m just doing a little bit of gardening so I’m not going to hit anything, but there are some very shallow lines that are underneath us that we don’t know about,” Nichols said. 

According to Nichols, gardeners and other homeowners tackling projects that require digging run the risk of damaging electrical, gas, water and cable lines. 

“We all have utilities going into our house, so that risk for damaging something is there. It really doesn’t matter, you know you think a big gas line or electrical transmission line but it can be small things, your cable, you have gas going into your house,” she said. 

Calling 811 or scheduling a locate with them online requires pre-planning, which could delay projects. However, Colorado 811 says it is better to be safe than sorry. 

“Planning is very important in this process. You need to contact, whether it’s online or at 811, at least 3 business days before you plan on digging. So, if you’re renting equipment or anything like that, factor that into the equation,” Nichols said.