One phone call reduces likelihood of incidents to less than one percent.

WASHINGTON (September 10, 2013) – 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 2012 Damage Information Reporting Tool (DIRT) Report.

The report, which is the sum of all 2012 data submitted anonymously and voluntarily by facility operators, utility locate companies, contractors and regulators, confirmed for the third consecutive year the importance of making a free call to 811 to reach a local one call center as the simplest and easiest way to reduce excavation-related damage to underground facilities.

When an excavator notifies a one call center before digging, damage occurs less than one percent of the time, according to the report. The report also estimates the total number of damages could be reduced by as much as 25 percent if all digging was preceded by a locate request.
The 2012 DIRT Report benefited from a significant increase in reporting from years prior. The nearly 25,000 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.


“It is more clear than ever that calling 811 before digging is the most critical step in preventing damage to underground utilities, as DIRT data has now demonstrated for three years in a row,” said Bob Kipp, CGA president. “The 16 industries that comprise CGA continue to emphasize the shared responsibility of damage prevention by voluntarily submitting to DIRT each year, which helps all stakeholders target outreach to the right groups with substantive messages.”

As it did in the 2011 report, CGA employed a linear regression model for the 11 states legislatively required to report damages to estimate the total underground facility damage events for 2012 and found that they continue to be a major problem, with 350,000 events estimated last year. Although this number estimates approximately 20,000 more events than in 2011, the increase is believed to be largely a result of increased construction activity in 2012. Excavation activity was up seven percent between 2011 and 2012 in the states that reported one call center locate request volume for both years. 

Slightly more than 75 percent of all events submitted for 2012 included root cause data, and the top causes were identified as follows:
•         Excavation practices not sufficient                45 percent
•         Notification not made                                  25 percent
•         Locating practices not sufficient                   17 percent

The percentage of known incidents listing “notification not made” as a root cause is lower than any other point in the last six years, demonstrating the effectiveness of the 811 campaign. National awareness of 811 doubled over the past four years, as measured by CGA research. This increase in public awareness of the 811 phone number has coincided with the steady decrease in the percentage of total reported damages attributed to not notifying a one call center prior to digging.

For the first time in 2012, the DIRT Report analyzed the potential adverse effects of one call notification exemption requirements on the rate of damages by state. The Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty and Job Creation Act passed by Congress in 2011 requires the Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) to complete similar analysis, which is currently underway. The 2012 DIRT Report showed that in general, as the number of exemption notifications increases, the rate of damage increases. For the 36 states examined, the damage rate per 1,000 one call tickets is more than double (108 percent greater) for states with five or more notification exemptions, as compared to states with fewer than five exemptions.


Also for the first time this year, the DIRT Report made regional comparisons of data by the nine U.S. census divisions and Canada, as opposed to the eight One Call Systems International (OCSI) regions. This geographical analysis allows the DIRT Report to make more localized damage prevention recommendations and will allow DIRT data to be more easily compared to other government and published statistics reported by census division.

The 2012 DIRT Report again provided recommendations to damage prevention stakeholders based on CGA’s data analysis, as it has for the last two years. These include continuing to improve the quality of data submitted by referring stakeholders to the DIRT Users’ Guide; promoting 811 as critical to safety; examining the number of, combination of and rationale for notification exemptions and more.

The report also notes that occupants and farmers are the most likely not to call 811 prior to digging, with two-thirds (66 percent) of damages involving these excavator groups having not been preceded by a locate request. This suggests that outreach continue to be targeted to these groups.

“It is our goal to make the DIRT Report a meaningful tool for the damage prevention industry as a whole, as well as individual stakeholders,” said Jemmie Wang, co-chair of CGA’s Data Reporting and Evaluation Committee. “We can strengthen the ability of DIRT to provide helpful recommendations for reducing damage incidents by continuing to encourage stakeholders to submit more complete data. Each year, the quality of data improves and assists advocates in implementing the most effective damage prevention initiatives.”

The complete DIRT Annual Report for 2012 is available for download at, and stakeholders interested in submitting data to the 2013 report or establishing a Virtual Private Dirt account should visit the DIRT site at