811 Continues To Gain Acceptance, Momentum

By Jeff Griffin, Senior Editor | April 2012, Vol. 67 No. 4

May will mark the fifth anniversary of the introduction of 811, the national one-call number to request buried pipes and cables be located and marked prior to excavation or any other earth-disturbing activity.

811 has changed the way requests for locates are initiated; no matter where a caller is in the United States, calling 811 rings the nearest one-call center. One-call personnel then contact member organizations to locate and mark their utilities at the requested location.

“Knowing where underground lines are buried before each digging project is the first step in preventing accidental hits which are costly and cause injuries and death,” said Bob Kipp, president of the Common Ground Alliance (CGA), the private, nonprofit organization that implements the comprehensive damage-prevention program to protect underground utilities. “811 was well accepted immediately and from our perspective, it is working great. There is no question that 811 makes initiating locates easier and contributes to reducing damage to buried facilities.”

The exact number of calls through 811 is impossible to estimate because calls continue to be placed to one-call centers using old 800 numbers, and all centers do not document the telephone numbers from which calls are received.

“Many contractors and facilities owners have old numbers programmed in speed dial systems, and many decals and signs with the previous numbers are still in place,” he added. “However, we know usage of 811 continues to grow, and we estimate, depending on location, that 30 to 70 percent of calls placed are 811 calls.”

Fast start
Following the adoption of 811 by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in March 2005, the CGA was charged with implementing the program nationwide by April 2007. In 2006, North Carolina became the first state to fully implement an 811 program.

As the 811 program was implemented, an education campaign was launched directly to all industry organizations with a stake in preventing damage to underground facilities and the general public.