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Dear Damage Prevention Stakeholders,

The Common Ground Alliance and our Data Reporting & Evaluation Committee are pleased to issue the only comprehensive accounting and analysis of damages to buried infrastructure in the U.S. and Canada with the release of our 2021 DIRT Report and Interactive Dashboard.

With the implementation of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act in addition to already-high construction activity, the publication of the DIRT Report coincides with a critical moment in damage prevention. As we face increasing excavation activity across the U.S., it has never been more important for stakeholders to understand how and why buried facilities are damaged. Our analysis of damage trends reveals that over the last three years, damages have plateaued or slightly increased, while the root causes of these incidents have remained remarkably consistent.

As our Nation focuses on building – and rebuilding – its critical underground infrastructure, I urge every stakeholder to focus your damage prevention efforts on the recommendations found on pages 6-9, and to share the DIRT Report’s important findings with your industry colleagues. Targeting outreach and training efforts on the persistent damage root causes will help the industry achieve the next meaningful breakthrough in reducing annual damages.

While we must tackle the issues that consistently contribute to damages, the industry must also commit to improving the quality of data submitted to DIRT. Better data means we can more accurately identify areas in which we need to focus our work – from stakeholder outreach to specific educational efforts. If you are not aware of your organization’s Data Quality Index (DQI) score – or if your organization does not submit damage and near-miss data to DIRT – please work within your organization to understand and improve your data collection and submission processes. You can find submitter profiles that highlight organizations with high DIRT DQI scores on pages 53-55 that may be helpful.

Improving the quality of damage prevention data comprises an entire category of recommendations in our 2021 DIRT Report and is echoed by many of our other programs and initiatives, including the industry-advancing work of CGA’s Next Practices Initiative. As CGA’s work with Next Practices, Best Practices, DIRT and our newest arm – the Damage Prevention Institute – highlights, the industry needs more high-quality data as well as data-driven methods for evaluating the effectiveness of education and training programs, the efficacy of practices such as electronic white-lining, and the impact of investments in GIS mapping and other technologies in order to take the next steps toward our long-term goal of zero damages.

Please join me in thanking the Data Reporting and Evaluation Committee for their diligent work in preparing the important analysis and thoughtful recommendations included in this report. I also ask that you examine the self-evaluation questions on page 8, and consider how your organization can improve your damage prevention data and practices. These questions are especially helpful as you think about your stakeholder group’s shared accountability in damage prevention.

Without the valuable time and information provided by our members and committees, CGA would not be able to produce our annual DIRT Report and recommendations. In addition to the key takeaways in the 2021 DIRT Report, be sure to visit the DIRT Interactive Dashboard to explore the data that is most relevant to your organization or stakeholder group.

Be safe,

Sarah K. Magruder Lyle
President & CEO
Common Ground Alliance

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