The FederalCommunications Commission (FCC) designated a new nationwide one-callnotification number on March 10, a move praised by both the Common GroundAlliance (CGA) and the National Utility Contractors Association (NUCA). The newnumber — 811 — will be one of eight “N11” codes designated for the same useacross the United States. Other examples of “N11” numbers include 511 for traveland information services and 911 for emergencies.

“We commend the FCC.This simple, convenient number will encourage safe excavation, protecting thenation’s vital energy telecommunications infrastructure and those livingnearby,” said CGA president Bob Kipp. “The next step is to get the number onlineas expeditiously as possible and make it as familiar as 911.”

The new 811number will replace the current array of numbers used throughout the UnitedStates. There are currently 71 one-call centers across the United States thatreceive 15 to 20 million calls annually from contractors, utility workers andothers involved in construction and excavation. It is estimated that those whodid not call before digging caused 40 percent of incidents involving damage tounderground pipelines and other utilities and facilities.

This issue isnot only dangerous to underground lines, but also to workers. “There are about400,000 excavation incidents each year resulting in substantial damage tofacilities and about 50 fatalities,” according to CGA board chairman PaulPreketes.

By instituting a nationwide number, officials hope to lessenconfusion and prevent future problems. “Damage prevention is a sharedresponsibility among all stakeholders involved in excavation activities andfacilitating the process of connecting excavators with their one-call centers isa fundamental part of the equation,” said NUCA president Cheryl Yoder. “We’reproud to have helped make this happen.”

“NUCA members are majorstakeholders in the three-digit dialing effort, and we applaud the FCC forenhancing the one-call process,” said Jim Barron, NUCA’s representative on theCGA board of directors. “A consistent, easy-to-remember, national one-callnumber will absolutely improve damage prevention.”

Although it could takea year or more to completely implement 811, officials are both excited andhopeful that the new number will aid in safety and accident prevention. “Thereare a lot of elements to damage prevention. Facility owners have to belong toone-call centers, excavators have to call the one-call center prior to digging,all underground facilities in the area have to be accurately located and markedby facility owners, and excavators have to dig carefully,” says NUCA CEO BillHillman. “The adoption of a three-digit number to reach the one-call center willmake that element of the process easier to complete.”

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