Damages to critical underground infrastructure caused due to failure to contact 811 have plagued gas, water, electric, and other utilities for years. According to the Common Ground Alliance (CGA), the failure to call/contact 811 before excavation makes up at least one-quarter of the total reported damages. In 2020, failure to contact 811 to request a locate, was the largest individual root cause of damage, accounting for 31 percent of total reported damages, according to the CGA’s 2020 DIRT Report
Reasons homeowners don't contact 811
& why they should
5 Main reasons homeowners perform no call/contact excavations
1. They aren’t aware of 811
According to a CGA research report, half of the respondents say they are aware of a free national phone number and service that people can contact to have underground utility lines marked prior to starting a digging project. While this is the largest amount of awareness to date, it also means that half of the general public isn’t aware of the message “Know what’s below, 811 before you dig”. Current strategies and continued focus on finding new, innovative ways to promote 811 and reduce damages are clearly working.
2. They aren’t aware of possible consequences
When it comes to hitting an underground utility, the list of potential negative consequences includes property damage, interruption of critical services, and even serious injury or fatalities.
Many people don’t consider that hitting a utility can disrupt service to a neighborhood or community. Or even the possibility of damaging a pressurized gas main, which can fuel an explosion large enough to destroy an entire neighborhood.
3. They think 811 is just for excavators
Safe digging is everyone’s responsibility — 811 is NOT just for excavators. If you are doing work that requires digging, it is your responsibility to contact 811. If you have hired a professional to do some work for you, it is their responsibility to contact 811.
811 will then notify the participating utilities of the upcoming excavation work so they can locate and mark their underground facilities in advance to prevent possible damage to underground utility lines, injury, property damage, and service outages.
Remember, you or your contractor could potentially hit a utility that may leave people and students working from home without service to continue to work and/or study at home.
4. They think 811 isn’t needed for small projects
With the shallow depth of a project being a top reason active diggers say they did not request to have underground utility lines marked (40% according to CGA), messaging should emphasize the potential for utility damage even from shallow digging.
Unintentionally striking a line can result in inconvenient outages for entire neighborhoods, harm to yourself or your neighbors, and repair costs.
5. They think there will be delays
The required wait time is 2 working days (excluding notification day) for members to clear or mark the dig site.
After waiting the allotted time and confirming the lines have been marked, safe excavation work can begin.
The best way to avoid damaging your utilities and risking injury or loss of service is to contact 811 a few days before digging to learn the approximate location of buried lines in the area of your project. Also, according to a recent Common Ground Alliance survey, 45 percent of people who plan to dig this year will not contact 811 first, despite there being 100 billion feet of utility lines buried underground in the United States.
No matter how large or small, every digging project warrants a call to 811. Installing a mailbox, building a deck, and planting a tree or garden are all examples of digging projects that should only begin a few days after making a call to 811.