The Common Ground Alliance (CGA), the international organization dedicated to protecting underground utility lines and the safety of people who dig near them, recently announced results from a recent survey that found more than half (57 percent) of Americans who plan to dig on their property this year do not plan to notify their local call-before-you-dig center by dialing 811.

Digging without knowing the approximate location of underground utilities can cause serious injuries, service disruptions and repair costs if a line is damaged.

Everyone who calls 811 a few days before digging is connected to a local one-call notification center that will take the caller’s information and communicate it to local utility companies. A professional locator will then visit the dig site to mark the approximate location of underground utility lines with spray paint or flags. Once a site has been accurately marked, it is safe to begin digging around the marked areas.

Failure to call 811 contributed to an estimated 75,000 underground utility damages in 2008, according to industry data compiled by the CGA.

The national public opinion survey of 749 homeowners, conducted between March 11-16, found 52 percent of homeowner households plan to do at least one do-it-yourself project that involves digging this year, up from a reported 44 percent in 2009. The survey had a margin of error that varied from plus or minus 2.2 percent to 5.7 percent, depending on the particular survey question.

Among homeowners who plan to dig this year, the most popular projects include planting shrubs (71 percent), planting a tree (57 percent) and digging to pour concrete to create a patio or walkway (29 percent). All of these common do-it-yourself (DIY) projects could damage the underground infrastructure if the person digging does not know the approximate location of buried utility lines.

The survey also found that homeowners who plan to dig this year have a history of engaging in other DIY safety habits, which CGA hopes is a positive sign that Americans will be more likely to add calling 811 a
few days before digging to their project checklists.

“The fact that more than half of American homeowners who plan to dig this year don’t think their projects require a phone call to 811 is a troubling statistic, especially when you consider that these are people with an overall understanding of safety,” said CGA president Bob Kipp. “It is information like this that illustrates the need for a National Safe Digging Month and serves as a reminder to all Americans that potential dangers that are out of sight shouldn’t also be out of mind.”

For more information, visit the CGA at www.commongroundalliance.com.

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