Failure to notify the Iowa One Call System prior to engaging in any type of digging or excavating is a serious breach of Iowa law. Contractors and professional excavators perform more activities that disturb the earth than any other sector and the rules and regulations involving excavation safety and underground damage prevention are critical to the professional contractor and excavator.

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What is an Excavation (Required Notification)

Iowa law defines excavation as meaning an operation in which a structure or earth, rock or other material in or on the ground is moved, removed, or compressed, or otherwise displaced by means of any tools, equipment or explosives and includes, but is not limited to, grading, trenching, tiling, digging, ditching, drilling, augering, tunneling, scraping, cable or pipe plowing, driving and demolition of structures.

As described above, the law defines an excavation as much more than simply digging into the earth. Iowa One Call must be notified prior to any operation that may disturb or potentially disturb buried facilities. Excavators should not make any assumptions about the depth at which a facility may be buried.

48-Hour Notice required

Locate requests to the Iowa One Call center are accepted 24 hours a day and 7 days a week.  The call center, which is located in Davenport, IA, is open 365 days a year. Notifications must be made at least 48 hours prior to all excavations (excluding Saturdays, Sundays and legal holidays).  Note that the weekend begins at 12:00 a.m. Saturday (“Friday night”) and ends at 12:00 a.m. Monday (“Sunday evening”).  The 48-hour clock (timeline) commences and runs during the week and stops during the weekend and legal holidays, then resuming at the start of the week (excluding legal holidays).

Excavators who do not make notification to Iowa One Call or do not wait the required 48 hours prior to excavating are in violation of the law and subject to civil penalties.  All Emergency calls are processed immediately with no 48 hour timeline.  Owners/operators of buried facilities will respond to emergency locate requests as soon as reasonably possible.

Be Prepared to Identify the Site

When making notifications to the Iowa One Call center excavators must identify as accurately and specifically as possible the excavation site to be marked for locates.  If there is an existing 911 address, that address must be used along with the specific information required by Iowa One Call.  Use of GPS coordinates will help define an area but must be used in conjunction with the other required descriptive information. 

Please note that Iowa One Call accepts GPS coordinates in the Decimal Degree format (position format).  It may be necessary to change the default position format of a GPS reciever to the decimal degree format via the receiver’s setup menu. 


The best way to identify the proposed excavation area for the locators who apply the markings is to white line the area prior to their arrival.  Marking the proposed excavation area in white allows the locators to concentrate their efforts in a specific area, which allows for more accurate markings and safer locates. 

White lining is a process that enhances communication between the excavators and locators and should be practiced at all excavation sites.  Another advantage of white lining is the reduction of paint and flags at the site, which can become an eyesore to property owners.

Respect the Locate Markings

Essential to the entire damage prevention process, are the locate markings applied to the area of proposed excavation.   Excavators are required by law to preserve the locate markings at all times throughout the excavation.  If the locate marking will be destroyed or otherwise altered during the excavation, the excavator must establish suitable reference points – based on the original markings – prior to said marking being destroyed or otherwise altered.

It is also essential that all excavators respect the locate markings being used by and called in by other excavators.  The locate markings present at any jobsite are there for safety and damage prevention reasons and must be respected by all stakeholders.   Excavators are responsible for establishing and maintaining safe working protocols and damage prevention procedures.  Respecting the locate markings at all worksites is paramount to effective damage prevention. 

Respect the Tolerance Zone

The horizontal location of any underground facility is defined by Iowa law as including an area eighteen (18) inches on either side of the underground facility.  This area is often referred to as the “tolerance zone”.  Excavators should observe this tolerance zone and take precautionary measures to avoid encountering underground facilities when excavating near or within this area. 

When excavations take place within the tolerance zone, excavators should hand-dig test holes to determine the location of the underground facilities.  No equipment or machinery, other than accepted procedures, such as vacuum excavation, should be used for exposing underground facilities within the tolerance zone.

Methods of Reaching Iowa One Call

The IOC Call Center can be Reached 24-Hours a Day, 7 Days a Week via your landline or cellular telephone:

Simply dial 811 or call 800-292-8989

Online Ticket Entry System:

The new “iTic” system provides a user-friendly Internet-based application for submitting and tracking Iowa One Call locate requests.

To register for using the iTic system please click here

Enforcement (Legal Actions / Noncompliant Status)

The Attorney General of Iowa, upon the receipt of a complaint, may institute any legal proceedings necessary to enforce the penalty provisions of this chapter.

Iowa Code, Chapter 480.6 states that: 

A person who violates a provision of this chapter is subject to a civil penalty as follows:

1) For a violation related to natural gas and hazardous liquid pipelines, an amount not to exceed ten thousand dollars for each violation for each day the violation continues, up to a maximum of five hundred thousand dollars.

2) For a violation related to any other underground facility, an amount not to exceed one thousand dollars for each violation for each day the violation continues, up to a maximum of twenty thousand dollars.

Reporting Damaged Facilities

All excavators who come in physical contact with a buried facility are required by law to, as soon as practical, report any damage caused to that facility to the specific owner/operator of the facility involved. Excavators can find the repair or emergency telephone number of the buried facility owner/operators in the telephone directory or on any buried facility markers in the area  (e.g.: permanent pipeline markers).  If in doubt as to whose facility it is, excavators can call Iowa One Call to report a “dig-in.”  The Iowa One Call System will then transmit notifications to all registered owner/operators in the area.

Reporting all instances of damaged facilities is extremely important and required by law. Even minor scratches, dents, or nicks can lead to the structural failure of buried facilities and result in catastrophic incidents.

Notify 911

Federal law requires all excavators to notify the 911 emergency response system if damage to any underground facility results in the escape of any flammable, toxic, or corrosive gas or liquid.


Excavators may be  liable for any damages they may cause to buried facilities.  Simply calling Iowa One Call does not necessarily relieve an excavator of these potential liabilities. For example, a damaged fiber optics line may be extremely costly to repair and the financial obligation of the contractor/excavator responsible for the damage.

Excavators need to take precautions and dig safely to avoid damaging buried facilities. In the event the locate markings are clearly inaccurate the liability for damage may shift to the facility operator.