Getting Down and DIRTy

Feb. 1, 2019
The Latest DIRT Report Can Help Prevent Damages to Buried Infrastructure —  Each year, the Common Ground Alliance (CGA), a stakeholder-driven organization dedicated to protecting underground utility lines, the people […]

The Latest DIRT Report Can Help Prevent Damages to Buried Infrastructure — 

Each year, the Common Ground Alliance (CGA), a stakeholder-driven organization dedicated to protecting underground utility lines, the people who dig near them, and their communities, publishes its findings and analysis of utility damage events submitted to the Damage Information Reporting Tool (DIRT) in the DIRT Report.

The most recent report, which analyzes all 2017 data submitted anonymously and voluntarily by facility operators, utility locating companies, one call centers, contractors, regulators, and others, used a refined statistical modeling process to estimate that 439,000 excavation-related damages to underground facilities occurred in 2017 in the US, up 5.5% from a revised 2016 estimate.

CGA found that while estimated damages increased year-over-year from 2015 to 2016, and again from 2016 to 2017, when excavation activity is considered, damages have effectively plateaued during this 3-year span, as measured by ratios of damages to construction spending and damages to utility locate notifications from one call center to their member facility operators.

Importantly for the ICT industry, telecommunications infrastructure was damaged more in 2017 than any other type of buried utility line, with 47% of the total estimated incidents. An additional 11% of damages were to underground cable TV lines, making damage prevention a critical issue.

For the first time, the 2017 DIRT Report includes an analysis of when damages occur, by month and day of the week, leading to several findings that can help industry stakeholders best target their damage prevention efforts and messages.

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Specifically, the report found the following:
• Damages that occurred on a weekend were nearly twice as likely to have involved hand tools (shovels, post-hole diggers, etc.) than those that occurred on a weekday.
• 50% of all reported damages occurred between June and September in 2017.
• August was the month with the most total damages in 2017.

Among all damage reports with an identified and known root cause, the majority (52.2%) occurred because of insufficient excavation practices, continuing a trend from recent years where this was the top identified root cause in the DIRT Report.

Other identified root causes were as follows:
• Notification not made: 23.5%
• Locating practices not sufficient: 16.8%
• Miscellaneous: 6.5%
• Notification practices not sufficient: 1.0%

When looking only at damages to telecommunications and cable TV with a known root cause, the root causes track very similarly to overall damages, with 50.7% attributable to insufficient excavation practices, 25.1% due to a failure to notify the one call center, and 15.3% due to insufficient locating practices.

CGA has made its 2017 DIRT data and findings available not only in a comprehensive annual report, but also in the DIRT Report Interactive Dashboard on its website that allows users to filter the information by the type of facility affected, root cause, type of excavator, type of work performed, and many other data layers. We encourage every organization to use the interactive dashboard to extract valuable information about how and when damage prevention efforts can be most effective.

Our collective challenge as an industry is to reduce underground damages. We aim to do this through public awareness campaigns, implementation of our Best Practices, regional partnerships, promotion of new technologies, and resources for state policymakers on the importance of balanced and effective enforcement laws.

CGA’s consensus-based Best Practices Guide is vital to any organization affected by excavation. Now in its 15th edition, the evidence-based guide is continually updated and improved based on the foundational consensus process among the diverse stakeholder categories that comprise our organization: telecommunications, excavators, locators, road builders, electric, oil, gas distribution, gas transmission, railroad, one call centers, public works, equipment manufacturing, state regulators, insurance, emergency services, and engineering/design.

For more information about the 2017 DIRT Report, the interactive DIRT Report, and more, please visit  http://commongroundalliance.com/DIRT.

For more information about the CGA’s Best Practices Guide, please visit  http://commongroundalliance.com/programs/best-practices and http://commongroundalliance.com/best-practices-guide.

For more information, please email [email protected] or visit www.commongroundalliance.com. Follow CGA on Twitter: @CGAconnect.

About the Author

Khrysanne Kerr

Khrysanne Kerr is VP of Communications, Common Ground Alliance (CGA). She started in her official capacity in August of 2007 after being a contract employee to the CGA since 2005 as the 811 Project Manager. Her duties include developing strategic underground damage prevention initiatives like the 811 public awareness campaign, development of the Regional Partners as well as DIRT, the Damage Information Reporting Tool. Additional duties include media relations, external communications, and executing the organization’s social media plan for the CGA’s 1,700 member organizations as well as 7 working committees. She has more than 20 years of experience in underground damage prevention and communcations. For more information, please email [email protected] or visit www.commongroundalliance.com.