Subsurface utilities are vital infrastructure that provide necessary services, such as electricity, water, telecommunications, gas and drainage to all citizens. Located underground, these utilities are ubiquitous in all urban areas, and can be easily damaged during excavation. If a water line is cut the public is immediately negatively affected. Data from the Damage Information Reporting Tool shows that the financial impact of damaged underground utilities in 2019 was estimated at $30 billion. In an effort to reduce damage, one call centers (like Ms. Utility in Virginia) have been established to provide a communication center for all stakeholders (excavators, locators, and utility owners). Despite these initiatives, there are often disconnects throughout the process. 

In a study for the Practice Periodical on Structural Design and Construction, researchers Ahmed Jalil Al-Bayati and Louis Panzer investigated current efforts to improve communication among all involved parties in the damage prevention process by assessing one call centers’ current practices to reduce system noise.  

The authors provide a road map for one call centers to improve general communication among stakeholders in a proactive way. Their research, “Resilience of Infrastructure Damage Prevention: Vital Role of One Call Centers in the United States,” discusses strengthening infrastructure damage prevention resilience by improving stakeholder and one call center practices. Their paper is available in the ASCE Library at The abstract is below.        


The management of subsurface utilities contributes significantly to the resilience of modern cities. Damage to subsurface utilities greatly impacts daily life and has severe consequences, including property damage, scheduling delays, and fatal and nonfatal injuries. One call centers are the cornerstone for preventing subsurface utility damage in the United States. Construction contractors and subcontractors rely on one call centers to notify utility owners about their excavation plans. The shared responsibility approach, which calls for teamwork between excavators and utility owners, is a crucial element of the one call system. This study aims to benchmark one call centers’ current practices to improve the overall communication among stakeholders and enhance damage prevention efforts. The provided benchmarking suggests the dire need for better strategies to collect and analyze the data from damage events. In addition, the practical outcomes of the North Carolina Locate Resolution Partnership Committee (NC Resolution Committee) were assessed. The assessment suggests that using data from one call centers could lead to a resilient damage prevention process. Thus, this study delivers a better understanding of the current practices of one call centers and a new approach to improving damage prevention efforts beyond the traditional role of one call centers. 

Read the paper in full at