CGA’s DIRT Report Finds Underground Utility Damages Declining

August 2009 Vol. 64 No. 8

The Common Ground Alliance (CGA), the nation’s leading organization focused on protecting underground utility lines and the safety of people who dig near them, announced findings August 25 from its comprehensive Damage Information Reporting Tool (DIRT) Report. The estimated total number of underground utility damages occurring in the U.S. in 2008 has decreased to 200,000 from the 2004 and 2007 estimates of 450,000 and 256,000 respectively.

The total number of events submitted for 2008 was 135,521, which represents facility damages, near misses and/or downtime incurred. The number of event submissions increased for the fifth consecutive year, which is indicative of broader support for voluntary data submission into DIRT. Several stakeholder groups currently submit data to DIRT as listed below.

Natural Gas 41 percent
One Call Center 27 percent
Telecommunication 23 percent
Excavator 3 percent
Electric 3 percent
Other 3 percent

Part of the increase may be attributable to the number of Virtual Private Dirt (VPD) accounts being requested and developed. VPD is an efficient, secure and useful solution for managing damage and near miss data. VPD enables users to collect and report their data for DIRT, as well as collect data for unique “flex fields” which can be customized to fit the needs of the individual organization or company.

In addition to the larger number of records submitted; the quality of the records improved in 2008. The Data Quality Index (DQI), a measurement of each record’s level of completeness, improved from 50 percent to 57 percent. The DQI was used to evaluate each record, based on a variety of criteria, providing insight on reporting trends and training needs, as well as providing valuable feedback to the submitter.

Of the total number of incidents reported in 2008, more than half (73,152) had a known root cause, and were identified as follows:

Notification not made 37 percent
Excavation practices not sufficient 37 percent
Locating practices not sufficient 22 percent
Notification practices not sufficient 3 percent
Miscellaneous root cause 1 percent

Reported damages with “Notification Not Made” as the root cause are down to 37 percent from 48 percent in 2004, the year when DIRT submissions began.

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