The Common Ground Alliance (CGA), an organization based in Alexandria, Va., that focuses on protecting underground utility lines and the safety of people who dig near them, recently revealed good news from its Damage Information Reporting Tool (DIRT) Report. The estimated total number of underground utility damages occurring in the United States last year decreased dramatically from previous years — from 450,000 in 2004 and 256,000 in 2007 to 200,000 in 2008. The total number of events submitted for 2008 was 135,521, which represents facility damages, near misses, and/or downtime incurred. Thanks to the implementation of "811" in May 2007, more homeowners are calling their one call centers prior to beginning projects on their property.

The number of event submissions increased for the fifth consecutive year, which is indicative of broader support for voluntary data submission into DIRT. Of the total number of incidents reported in 2008, more than half (73,152) had a known root cause, including: notification not made, 37%; excavation practices not sufficient, 37%; locating practices not sufficient, 22%; notification practices not sufficient, 3%; miscellaneous root cause, 1%.

The complete DIRT Annual Report for 2008 is available for download at http://www.commongroundalliance.com, and stakeholders interested in submitting data to the 2009 report or establishing a Virtual Private Dirt account should visit the DIRT Web site at http://www.cga-dirt.com.