2021 DIRT Report

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Introduction - Understanding the Data

Information Collected and Source of Data

The Damage Information Reporting Tool (DIRT) collects underground damage and near miss reports from stakeholders across the U.S. and Canada. The database is used to identify the characteristics, themes and contributing factors leading to damages, downtime and near misses. The findings are summarized in the annual DIRT Report, and key findings inform CGA programs such as Next Practices, Best Practices and stakeholder white papers, as well as industry-wide damage prevention education and outreach initiatives.

Data is submitted into DIRT by a variety of stakeholders: facility owner/operators, locators, excavators, 811 centers (one call centers), and state and federal regulatory agencies. DIRT reporting is voluntary and confidential. However, some states' laws and/or rules require reporting all or some specific facility type events to DIRT.

Defining Damages, Events and Datasets

Understanding the differences between key terms such as reported events and unique events is critical to an accurate reading of the figures and tables on the following pages. Please review Appendix A for a complete glossary of terms used in the 2021 DIRT Report.

  • Damage – Any impact or exposure that results in the need to repair an underground facility due to a weakening or the partial or complete destruction of the facility, including, but not limited to, the protective coating, lateral support, cathodic protection, or housing for the line, device, or facility. There does not need to be a release of product.
  • Event – The occurrence of facility damage, near miss or downtime.
  • Near miss – An event where damage did not occur but clear potential for damage was identified.
  • Reported events (damages or near misses) – The number of reports originally entered into DIRT.
  • Unique reported events (damages or near-misses) – The number after identifying and consolidating multiple reports of the same event. Annual DIRT Reports and online dashboards are based on unique damages.[1]
  • Comparable dataset – When analyzing annual trends, this report uses what is referred to as a comparable dataset. Due to fluctuations in the makeup of DIRT contributors year-over-year, and to ensure consistent comparisons are made, data was used from companies that entered data for all three years (2019 – 2021), with the number of reports submitted above certain thresholds. That process is explained more fully in the trending section.
  • Known and unknown data – Some DIRT questions can be left blank or answered with “unknown.” When a DIRT figure or table indicates that unknown data is filtered out, it means blank or unknown values are not included. Similarly, a number presented as a percentage of “known” data means blank and unknown values are NOT included in the denominator. 
  • Data Quality Index (DQI) – Measure of the “completeness” of the data submitted or the extent that submitters avoided entering blank or unknown data. This is discussed in more detail in the “Impact of Data Quality” section of this report, which also spotlights three companies that had a high average DQI score for 2021 given the quantity of reports submitted.

Data Submitted for 2021

An overview of data submitted for 2021 analysis is included below. Unless otherwise noted, the 203,618 unique reported damage events are the basis for the exhibits and tables in the section of this report analyzing the 2021 dataset. Table 1 shows the 2021 totals for the United States and Canada:

Table 1—Total and unique damages and near misses in Canada and the United States in 2021


Total Damage Reports

Unique Damages

Total Near Miss Reports

Unique Near Misses






United States





Total Reported Events








[1] Click here for a report describing the process for handling multiple reports of the same event.

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