July 3, 2008
Atmos Energy Cautions: Call 8-1-1 Before Digging
Atmos Energy Corporation (NYSE:ATO) today cautioned that anyone digging without first calling 8-1-1 is creating an unnecessary risk for themselves, people in the area and Atmos Energy crews.
"The ground beneath your feet and around your home is a web of cable, telecom fiber optics, electric, gas, sewer, and water lines, not to mention the lines installed for landscape lighting, pool lines, and sprinkler systems," said Tim Owen, chairman of Atmos Energy's damage prevention committee. "In 2007, Atmos Energy experienced more than 8,000 incidents of damage to natural gas lines across 12 states, many of which could have been avoided with a call in advance to locate the lines."
One call to the legally mandated 8-1-1 system results in local officials sending a professional to the scene to identify where underground lines are located by marking the ground with paint and small flags.
A recent study by the Common Ground Alliance (CGA), an industry safety group, shows that when the cause is known approximately 80 percent of all natural gas line cuts are attributed to excavators.
More than 104,000 natural gas lines were damaged in 2006 nationwide, according to the CGA. The latest statistics show a promising trend: From 2004 to 2006, each year fewer damage reports were attributed to excavators that did not call 8-1-1 to locate lines first.
Atmos Energy safety professionals meet with contractors throughout the year to share new techniques and information to enhance safety.
"Fewer line cuts support our highest priorities: safety and reliability," said Kim Cocklin, Atmos Energy senior vice president of regulated operations. "Less damage also allows us to devote our people and resources to maintenance, new installations and caring for our customers. We are talking to excavators and trying to reach the average person who rents a backhoe for a small project. Before any dirt is turned, 8-1-1 must be called."
If you suspect a natural gas leak in your home or outside, follow these safety steps:
-- LEAVE the area IMMEDIATELY.
-- CALL ATMOS ENERGY from a safe distance. Our toll-free emergency number is 866-EC-ATMOS (1-866-322-8667) or call 9-1-1.
-- DO NOT turn any lights on or off, smoke or use a cell phone, or operate any vehicle or equipment that could cause sparks.
-- DO NOT attempt to turn natural gas valves on or off.
Atmos Energy will send a trained service technician immediately to investigate any emergency leak call.
About Atmos Energy
Atmos Energy Corporation, headquartered in Dallas, is the country's largest natural-gas-only distributor, serving about 3.2 million natural gas distribution customers in more than 1,600 communities in 12 states from the Blue Ridge Mountains in the East to the Rocky Mountains in the West. Atmos Energy also provides natural gas marketing and procurement services to industrial, commercial and municipal customers primarily in the Midwest and Southeast and manages company-owned natural gas pipeline and storage assets, including one of the largest intrastate natural gas pipeline systems in Texas. Atmos Energy is a Fortune 500 company. For more information, visit www.atmosenergy.com.