Why we need National 811 Day


It’s an endlessly repeated statistic, but needs to be said and said again until it ceases to be true: Every six minutes in the US an underground utility line is damaged because someone decided to dig without first calling 811.

Ignorance is a significant contributor to this statistic and the industry has two major initiatives designed to dispel this ignorance: National Call 811 Month, held in April every year, and National 811 Day on August 11.

As part of its awareness campaign for this year’s National Call 811 Day, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), one of the largest combined gas and electric utilities in the US, surveyed 1,750 of its customers. Only one in seven said they called 811 ahead of embarking on digging projects.

The survey also revealed some misconceptions around the service.

Over 50 percent of customers thought it safe to dig up to 12 inches (30cms) before needing to call 811. Almost 20 percent thought it safe to plant a tree without calling 811. Sixty percent felt their project was too small or believed it was already safe.

In March 2005 the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) designated 811 as the nationwide number for contractors and others to call before conducting excavation activities and ordered that the scheme be in place by April 2007. That was when the Common Ground Alliance (CGA) designated August 11 as National 811 Day. So this year, 2017 marks its 10th anniversary.

Every yearCGA stages a number of events to promote National 811 Day. For example, in 2015 PG&E and the CGA arranged to ring the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange.

In addition each state Call 811 service creates its own initiatives to mark the day, often in partnership with utilities and other industry players.

The CGA will this year stage a repeat of a rather creative initiative from 2016: its 811 Video Challenge. CGA members are being asked to look back on the past and look ahead to the future of damage prevention by creating and burying an 811 time capsule that includes “11 historical damage prevention items from your organisation, along with eight items/ideas that demonstrate your vision of what the damage prevention process will look like in 10 years,” and to make a video of the project.

These time capsules will be ceremonially buried on National 811 Day. Sounds like quite a challenge, and there’s a video on YouTube introducing it.

Finally, to return to the topic of statistics, Buckeye Partners, one of the largest independent operators in the US of pipelines for liquid petroleum products, for this year’s National 811 Day, has produced a useful infographic that highlights the scale of underground infrastructure in the US.

“You can see 4.19 million miles of roads in the US. What you can’t see includes…”

That’s followed by a list: one million miles of water mains;2.6 million miles of pipelines; 485,000 miles of cables; two million miles of power lines, two million lines of sewers.

Plenty of targets for ill-informed excavators.

Infrastructure protection news brought to you by PelicanCorp

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.