Yikes! CGA Survey Reveals 26.9M Americans Plan to Dig Without Contacting 811 First

excavator arm in a yard bucket residential home

In observance of National Safe Digging Month in April, Common Ground Alliance (CGA) — the national association dedicated to protecting underground utility lines, people who dig near them, and their communities — recently announced results from a recent national survey which found 26.9 million homeowners planning do-it-yourself digging projects will not contact 811, putting themselves and their communities at risk of utility service disruptions, costly fines and repairs, and even serious injury or death.

“With more than $1 trillion in new infrastructure breaking ground across America, contacting 811 before digging has never been more important,” said Tristan Brown, Deputy Administrator of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration in the U.S. Department of Transportation. “Before starting excavation work, homeowners, contractors, and landscaping professionals should always remember to contact 811 – every dig, every time.”  

Respondents cited the belief that ‘shallow’ digging does not require contacting 811 and unfamiliarity with the 811 notification process as top reasons they do not plan to get utilities marked before breaking ground on DIY digging projects. Overwhelmingly, however, homeowners value contractors calling 811 or submitting an online request to have the underground utilities on their property marked, with 95% citing this step as important.

“Spring weather brings more digging projects, for homeowners and professionals alike. To keep our communities connected to water, electricity, gas and communications lines, everyone needs to contact 811 a few days before beginning an excavation project – whether it’s gardening or major construction,” said CGA President and CEO Sarah K. Magruder Lyle. “Utility lines can be buried just inches below the surface. Everyone must contact 811 before every digging project.”

Nearly half (45%) of homeowners reported being affected by a utility service interruption of three hours or longer over the past year, with the highest rate of interruptions occurring in the South.

To keep homeowners, families and communities safe, a few days before breaking ground, make a free request to have the approximate location of buried lines marked with flags or paint by calling 811 or visiting www.811beforeyoudig.com. This National Safe Digging Month, and all year long, take the following steps when planning a digging project:

  • Always contact 811 a few days before digging, regardless of the depth or familiarity with the property.
  • Plan ahead. Make a free 811 request on Monday or Tuesday for work planned for an upcoming weekend, providing ample time for the approximate location of lines to be marked.
  • Confirm that all lines have been marked.
  • Consider moving the location of the project if it is near utility line markings.
  • If a contractor has been hired, confirm that the contractor has contacted 811. Don’t allow work to begin if the lines aren’t marked.

Everyone who contacts 811 a few days before digging is connected to a local 811 center that collects the information and communicates it to local utility companies. Professional locators will then visit the dig site to mark the approximate location of underground utility lines with spray paint, flags or both. Once a site has been accurately marked, it is safe to begin digging around the marked areas.