Common Ground Alliance’s 2010 DIRT Report Reveals Importance of Calling 811 Before Digging in Damage Prevention Process

One free phone call reduces likelihood of incidents to less than 1 percent.

WASHINGTON (Oct. 12, 2011) -- Common Ground Alliance (CGA), the stakeholder-run organization focused on protecting underground utility lines and the people who dig near them, announced findings from its comprehensive 2010 Damage Information Reporting Tool (DIRT) Report.

The report, which is the sum of all 2010 data submitted anonymously and voluntarily by damage prevention stakeholders, identified 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 30 percent if all digging was preceded by a locate request.

Overall, underground utility events continue to be a major problem, with 165,000 incidents estimated in the United States in 2010. The number of incidents in 2010 was relatively similar to that of the past several years, and it continues to pose a threat to safety. The 2010 DIRT Report examined the root causes of slightly more than half of all events submitted, and the top causes were identified as follows:

  • Excavation practices not sufficient        38 percent
  • Notification not made                          32 percent
  • Locating practices not sufficient           25 percent

The report also noted that small fencing, irrigation and landscaping contractors were most often involved in incidents resulting from a failure to notify a one call center before digging.

Since 2008, the number of incidents submitted to DIRT has declined, possibly due to economic factors affecting the amount of work performed. To create a baseline figure that accounts for changes in excavation activity and tracks year-to-year progress, this year's report features an increased emphasis on measuring damages per 1,000 one call center requests. 

The 2010 DIRT Report benefited from inbound locate request data from 31 one call centers. Comparing this one call data to incident data submitted for those states in 2010, CGA determined an average of 3.2 incidents occurred per 1,000 locate requests last year.

The complete DIRT Annual Report for 2010 is available for download at, and stakeholders interested in submitting data to the 2011 report or establishing a Virtual Private Dirt account should visit the DIRT site at