In March of 2005, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) designated 811 as the nationwide phone number for excavation damage prevention. Now, 15 years later, we have seen damages decline as everyone from homeowners to construction crews call before they dig.

The federal designation unified the nation’s programs into one simple, easy to remember, and effective number: 811. The goal was and continues to be protecting our nation’s pipelines, utilities, and underground networks from excavation damage.

This nationwide abbreviated dialing code will provide an effective replacement for an array of numbers used across the nation to connect to communication systems operated by underground utility operators and state and local governments. “One Call” notification systems enable contractors to give advance notice of their plans to excavate so that utility companies can mark underground facilities prior to excavation to prevent damage to these facilities.

There is more work to do, and it is important for everyone to know that every dig requires a call. While “better safe than sorry” applies here, we will add that it is “better to call 811 first than call 911 later.” That is because striking an underground pipeline or electrical line can cause dangerous gas leaks, electric shocks, explosions, or other losses. In fact, fatalities and injuries are all too common.

Most of those casualties are preventable by simply calling the nationwide Call Before You Dig number: 811.


Celebrate 15 years of a nationwide damage prevention number, and tell your friends so that everyone knows: Call 811 before you dig!



Written by Benjamin Dierker, Director of Public Policy, Graphic by Andrew Jefferis



The Alliance for Innovation and Infrastructure (Aii) is an independent, national research and educational organization. An innovative think tank, Aii explores the intersection of economics, law, and public policy in the areas of climate, damage prevention, energy, infrastructure, innovation, technology, and transportation.