The Common Ground Alliance (CGA), a stakeholder-run organization dedicated to protecting underground utility lines and the people who dig near them (just like NUCA), recently announced findings from its comprehensive 2013 Damage Information Reporting Tool (DIRT) Report. The report, which is the sum of all 2013 data submitted anonymously and voluntarily by facility operators, utility locate companies, contractors and regulators, confirmed for the fourth 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. According to the report, when an excavator notifies a One-Call center before digging, damage occurs less than 1 percent of the time.
“For the fourth year in a row, the DIRT Report demonstrates that making the call to 811 before digging is the single most crucial step in preventing damage to underground utility lines,” said Bob Kipp, CGA President. “Without the dedication and responsibility shared among the 16 industries who count themselves as part of CGA, the annual DIRT Report, comprised of voluntarily submitted data, would not be possible.”
Once again this year, CGA employed a linear regression model to estimate the total underground facility damage events for 2013, this time based on the 16 states found to have a substantial amount of damages reported as a result of legislative requirements and/or an entity such as a Public Service Commission, Public Utility Commission or One-Call center with a Virtual Private Dirt that submits data to DIRT.
Damages remained a problem with 335,000 events estimated last year. The 2013 estimate represents a decrease from the estimated 350,000 damages of 2012, despite an 8 percent increase in locate requests received in 2013 (for states where both 2012 and 2013 One-Call center data is available) and a 7.4 percent increase in 2013 construction spending. A lower estimated rate of incidents combined with greater construction activity suggests that damage prevention education efforts may be leading to fewer damages. Seventy-three percent of all events submitted for 2013 included root cause data, and the top causes were identified as follows:
- Excavation practices not sufficient: 50 percent
- Notification not made: 26 percent
- Locating practices not sufficient: 16 percent
The concurrent decrease in the percentage of known incidents listing “Notification not made” and “Locating practices not sufficient” as root causes over the past four years may suggest greater public awareness of the importance of submitting locate requests and improved facility marking techniques. National awareness of 811 nearly doubled between 2008 and 2013, as measured by CGA’s market 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.
The 2013 DIRT Report made regional comparisons of data by the nine U.S. census divisions and Canada. This geographical analysis allows stakeholders to implement localized damage prevention measures and allows DIRT data to be compared to other government and published statistics reported by census division. In general, the 2013 DIRT Report identified a relationship between higher 811 awareness and lower incidence of “no notification made” events, and vice versa, in the census divisions.
Additionally, the 2013 DIRT Report analyzed the relationships between damages to underground utilities resulting from excavation and ticket life, as well as excavation and tolerance zones, providing stakeholders with data that can help guide future legislative efforts. 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.
“We continue to improve the DIRT user interface and promote the importance of anonymously submitting data to all damage prevention stakeholders each year, and the result is a continually strengthened annual DIRT Report,” said Jemmie Wang, Co-Chair of CGA’s Data Reporting and Evaluation Committee. “The 2013 DIRT Report’s analysis provides helpful information for reducing damage incidents and will continue to sharpen its insights as stakeholders submit more complete data.”