DIRT Info Proves Invaluable

By Jeff Griffin, Senior Editor | April 2013, Vol. 68 No. 4
Robert Kipp, president of the Common Ground Alliance.

The DIRT program isn’t the only ongoing research; a research firm is conducting a public awareness study to measure the level of importance of notifying one-call before allowing excavation, Kipp said.

Clearly those markets can be targeted by awareness efforts. An effective public awareness program already in place, focuses on the importance of the “Call Before You Dig” campaign. Materials are available (www,call811.com) and have been widely used enabling local one-call agencies to prepare ads and distribute information about 811 and the importance of locating facilities before excavation.

Tracking perception
Kipp said CGA uses an independent research firm to track public perception of the importance of calling before digging, and results of ongoing studies document educational efforts working.

“In 2008, 50 percent of the homeowners surveyed in the study said before excavating was done on their property, they would notify one-call,” Kipp said. “In 2012, 82 percent said they would contact one-call.”

Protecting underground facilities from damage is an ongoing task that never will be finished. However, the CGA and other stakeholders are making significant progress.

“With the combined efforts of all concerned, it is working,” said Kipp. “We are making progress, and that is good news.”

A Short History of DIRT

It appears to make sense that if details relating to the causes of accidental utility strikes can be gathered in a database, that the information can be useful in developing programs that will reduce the number of such incidents.

However, utility owners and operators and the contractors who serve them are understandingly cautious about revealing these details which very likely are part of active or pending litigation.

It was clear to those planning the program that ultimately became the Damage Information Reporting Tool (DIRT) that it was essential that sources providing information about underground utility damages would be confidential and could never be identified in subsequent reports.

DIRT was launched in 2003 via a secure web application that allows users to submit damage and near miss reports; browse files submitted by the user’s organization; administer role-based company and user information; edit personal profiles; change/retrieve password; and submit feedback and questions.

“In the beginning,” said Kipp, “many organizations were reluctant to share information.”