Calling 811 reduces likelihood of incidents

Common Ground Alliance (CGA), the stakeholder-run organization dedicated to protecting underground utility lines and the people who dig near them, announced findings from its comprehensive 2011 Damage Information Reporting Tool (DIRT) Report.

The report, which is the sum of all 2011 data submitted anonymously and voluntarily by damage prevention stakeholders, confirmed the importance of making a free call to 811 to reach a local one call center as most critical to safety.

When an excavator notifies a one call center before digging, damage occurs less than 1 percent of the time, according to the report. The report also estimates the total number of damages could be reduced by 31 percent if all digging was preceded by a locate request.

The 2011 DIRT Report benefited from a significant increase in reporting from one stakeholder group: locators, the professionals who identify the approximate location of underground facilities by using paint or flags. The nearly 100,000 additional records submitted to DIRT this year, combined with the quality of those records, resulted in this year’s data being the most complete to date, scoring the highest ever Data Quality Index (DQI) since the metric was introduced in 2008.

The 2011 DIRT Report examined the root causes of 80 percent of all events submitted (up from 54 percent for 2010), and the top causes were identified as follows:
• Excavation practices not sufficient, 41 percent
• Notification not made, 26 percent
• Locating practices not sufficient, 22 percent

The percentage of known incidents listing “Notification not made” as a root cause dropped 6 percent from 2010 to its lowest point during the last five years, demonstrating the effectiveness of the 811 campaign.

As it did in 2010, the DIRT Report again provided recommendations to damage prevention stakeholders based on CGA’s data analysis. These include the identification of locator and excavator best practices, partnering with underground infrastructure utilities and industry associations to distribute educational materials about safe excavation practices and more.

The complete DIRT Annual Report for 2011 is available for download at, and stakeholders interested in submitting data to the 2012 report or establishing a Virtual Private Dirt account should visit the DIRT site at

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