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48 Percent of Homeowners Will Put Themselves and Others at Risk by Not Calling 811 Before Digging

Khrysanne Kerr
Common Ground Alliance

The Common Ground Alliance (CGA), the organization dedicated to protecting underground utility lines and the safety of people who dig near them, today announced results from a recent survey that found 48 percent of American homeowners who plan to dig this year for projects that include landscaping, installing a fence or mailbox or building a deck, pond or patio, will put themselves and communities at risk by not calling 811 to learn the approximate location of underground utilities.

Digging without knowing the approximate location of underground utilities increases the likelihood of an unintentional damage, which can cause serious injuries, service disruptions and repair costs. An underground utility line is damaged every eight minutes because someone decided to dig without first calling 811, according to CGA data.

There are more than 100 billion feet of underground utilities in the United States, according to data compiled by CGA from various industry groups. That figure equates to more than one football field's length (105 yards) of buried utilities for every man, woman and child in the U.S.

Everyone who calls 811 a few days before digging is connected to a local one call notification center that will take the caller's information and communicate it to local utility companies. Professional locators will then visit the dig site to mark the approximate location of underground utility lines with spray paint or flags. Once a site has been accurately marked, it is safe to begin digging around the marked areas.

This national public opinion survey of 624 homeowners, conducted Feb. 28 - March 5, also found that 85 percent of homeowners would require a contractor to call 811 before digging on their property, even though nearly half (48 percent) of the homeowners themselves would not call 811 in advance of a digging project they would perform.

"The results of this survey are concerning because the math just doesn't add up in safety's favor," said CGA President Bob Kipp. "With millions of shovels entering the ground near billions of feet of unmarked underground utilities this year, we will continue to see damages occur every few minutes, leading to inconvenient outages, and in worst-case scenarios bodily harm, not just for the do-it-yourselfers, but for entire communities."

The survey also identified the top reasons why people who do not plan to call 811 before digging thought they did not need to make this phone call. Among survey respondents who plan to dig this year but don't plan to call, 56 percent said that they felt they already knew were utilities were buried on their property. 49 percent did not think they would dig deep enough to come in contact with utility lines, despite the fact that utilities can sometimes be just a few inches below the surface due to erosion and other topography changes.

CGA's 1,500 members, the U.S. Department of Transportation, more than 30 governors and many mayors have proclaimed April as National Safe Digging Month as a way to bring extra attention to the issue and reduce the risk of unnecessary infrastructure damage.

As part of National Safe Digging Month, CGA encourages homeowners to take the following steps when planning a digging project this spring:

  • Always call 811 a few days before digging, regardless of the depth or familiarity with the property.
  • Plan ahead. Call on Monday or Tuesday for work planned for an upcoming weekend, providing ample time for the approximate location of lines to be marked.
  • Confirm with your local one call center that all lines have been marked.
  • Learn what the various colors of paint and flags represent at www.call811.com/faqs.
  • Consider moving the location of your project if it is near utility line markings.
  • If a contractor has been hired, confirm that a call to 811 has been made. Don't allow work to begin if the lines aren't marked.

About Common Ground Alliance (CGA)

CGA is a member-driven association of 1,500 individuals, organizations and sponsors in every facet of the underground utility industry. Established in 2000, CGA is committed to saving lives and preventing damage to underground infrastructure by promoting effective damage prevention practices. CGA has established itself as the leading organization in an effort to reduce damages to underground facilities in North America through shared responsibility among all stakeholders. For more information, visit CGA on the web at www.commongroundalliance.com.

About the Study

International Communications Research (ICR) conducted a national omnibus phone study between Feb. 28 and March 5, 2013,on behalf of CGA. A total of 624 American homeowners ages 18+ were asked for their opinions on home and property improvement project topics. The survey had a margin of error that varied from +-2.2 percent to +-5.7 percent, depending on the particular survey question.

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