Report Shows 811 is Working

Common Ground Alliance’s DIRT Report indicates construction activity has increased, more events recorded
Report Shows 811 is Working

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The Damage Information Reporting Tool (DIRT) Report from the Common Ground Alliance’s (CGA) confirmed the importance of making a free call to 811 to reduce excavation-related damage to underground utilities.

The report released by the CGA on Aug. 11 analyzes the 2014 data submitted anonymously and voluntarily by facility operators, utility locate companies and one-call centers, contractors and regulators.

For 2014, a total of 273,599 events were submitted, about 49,000 more than for 2013. “It is the committee’s belief this increase is the result of several positive factors,” says Bob Kipp, CGA president, in the report. “First and foremost, construction activity in the United States increased significantly in 2014, leading to increased opportunities for underground events. Secondly, several key indicators suggest more stakeholders are reporting to DIRT.”

 

SAFE DIGGING

The 2014 report shows that when an excavator notifies a one-call center before digging, damage can be avoided more than 99 percent of the time.

“The 2014 DIRT Report’s enduring indication, that calling 811 before digging is the most important precaution that professionals and homeowners can take before digging, could not be clearer after five years of consistent results,” says Kipp.

The rate of damage per 1,000 transmissions also dropped in 2014 to 1.60 compared to 2.07 in 2013. The decrease in the 2014 damage ratio can be explained in part by an 8 percent increase in the number of incoming locate requests to one-call centers and a greater than 35 percent increase in outgoing transmissions to member facilities, indicating that more 811 requests are being made and more facility operators are active participants.

The DIRT Report employed a linear regression model to estimate the total number of underground damage events in the U.S. It is based on 16 states found to have a substantial number of damage events because of legislative requirements, a high level of stakeholder reporting 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.

The report found that construction spending was up 5.2 percent in 2014 and U.S. housing starts were up 6 percent. But CGA’s Damage Reporting and Evaluation Committee estimates that damages events were up only 4.2 percent — to about 349,000 — suggesting continuing improvement in damage prevention since it increased at a lesser rate than construction spending.

 

IMPORTANCE OF LOCATING

The report analyzed the effect of enforcement activity on damage rates by examining the rate per 1,000 transmissions for the 16 substantial reporting states, of which 12 have active enforcement of damage prevention laws.

The states with active enforcement have a combined damage rate of 1.65, while those without enforcement have a 2.41 rate.

During any excavation project, there are three opportunities to minimize the likelihood of damage to underground facilities:

  1. Requesting that the underground facilities be located in the area to be excavated, typically by contacting 811.
  2. Correctly marking the underground facilities (fulfilling the locate request).
  3. Employing proper excavation techniques given the site characteristics and conditions.

“Locators submitted the most events for the third year in a row with 148,479 submitted,” says Kipp.

Contract locators continue to fulfill the majority of locate requests, representing 90 percent of submitted events in 2014. The locating and marking performance of contract locators was unchanged from the previous year: Visibility received a 92 percent rating and correctness 87 percent.

The locating and marking performance of utility locators, however, saw a considerable performance change from 2013. The visibility of locates went from 78 percent in 2013 to 74 percent in 2014, while the accuracy went from 80 percent to 74 percent.

 

HISTORY OF DIRT

The first CGA Annual DIRT Report, issued in 2005, analyzed data for 2004. There were about 22,000 event records submitted, and nearly 50 percent of the damages were due to lack of notification to one-call centers.

In the next decade, the volume of events submitted to DIRT continued to grow, and the percentage of damages attributed to lack of notification declined each year. It gradually passed through the low 30 percent range in the late 2000s.

From 2011 to 2012, a few years after the rollout of 811, CGA saw a significant decrease in damages, from 32 to 26 percent. It has since remained at about 25 percent, the CGA says.



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