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The Dangers of Digging
Without Contacting 811

Whether you’re a homeowner planting a tree, a contractor installing a fence, or a utility worker repairing underground pipes, failing to contact 811 can result in serious consequences.

Digging without contacting 811
can be a dangerous and costly mistake.

811 is the national phone number designated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for digging-related inquiries. When you contact 811, you’ll be connected to the 811 center providing service for that area.  If you are calling from a region outside the area where the work is being performed, you may have to be redirected to the proper state program.  The 811 center will obtain the necessary information on your proposed excavation project, to be used to determine the relevant underground facility owners to notify of your intent to dig. These companies will then send technicians to mark the approximate location of their buried facilities, allowing you to dig safely and avoid costly damages.

Real-Life Stories and Examples

Explosion in Murrieta, California
In 2019, a contractor in Murrieta, California was digging a trench for a new natural gas line when he hit a 3/4-inch gas line. The resulting explosion destroyed a home and injured 15 people, including three firefighters. The contractor had failed to contact 811 before digging, and had not obtained the necessary permits and approvals.
Explosion in Lee County, Illinois
The U.S. Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration says workers operating a tiling plow ruptured the pipeline, causing an explosion. At the time of the explosion, the workers were installing drainage tile.

The investigation determined that the land owner did not contact the Joint Utility Locating Information for Excavators (811) before beginning the tiling project.
Lawsuits filed for failure to contact 811 when damages occur
The main cause of underground utilities being damaged by someone digging is not notifying the 811 call center to have utilities located. Awareness of 811 is high among professionals, yet 60% of damages reported in 2021 were caused by contractors, demonstrating that many are aware of the 811 process but still fail to contact 811 before they dig.

It is important to contact 811 before you dig because it provides you with protection from damage claims, injuries, and lawsuits - not to mention downtime - that can result from digging, boring, or blasting without being aware of underground facilities. It can also save Alabama residents the inconvenience of damaged facilities resulting in the loss of utility services. And in some cases, contacting 811 before you dig can even save lives!

DIRT – Root Cause Analysis

 

Common Ground Alliance’s (CGA) Damage Information Reporting Tool, (DIRT), collects root cause information and has 25 individual “known” root causes to choose from as well as the option to choose “root cause not listed” or “unknown/other.” The CGA’s Data Reporting & Evaluation Committee sorts related individual root causes into groups to provide a higher-level snapshot of what went wrong in the damage prevention process. No locate request stands alone as its own root cause group and has consistently been the single leading root cause each year.  

Without a request to 811, the rest of the damage prevention process cannot be engaged and effective.

Conclusion

These are just a few examples of the dangers of digging without contacting 811. In addition to the risk of injury and property damage, you could face legal and financial consequences if you cause damage to buried utilities. Always contact 811 before digging, and follow the instructions provided by the underground facility owners. By doing so, you’ll ensure a safe and successful digging project.