Confronting COVID-19 Q&A Series: David Park, Atmos Energy Corporation

Since its founding in 1906, Atmos Energy has established a track record of maintaining safe and reliable natural gas service under many adverse conditions. The COVID-19 pandemic is no exception.        

David Park, Senior Vice President of Utility Operations, details how the company’s focus – the safety of its 4,800 employees, its more than three million customers, and the 1,400 communities it serves – remains its top priority.

This Q&A is part of an ongoing series of DRC interviews with representatives from our member organizations about how they are facing the COVID-19 pandemic.

Q: How have Atmos Energy operations been impacted by the pandemic?

Let me start with what hasn’t changed – our dedication to keeping our customers and communities safe. Atmos Energy employees and contractors continue to provide our customers safe and reliable natural gas service in communities where people are staying at home to avoid the virus.

Our commitment to modernizing our system is ongoing, and we continue to perform the essential safety functions of the business, including service orders, leak surveys, pipe replacement programs, and emergency response. We have continued to employ dozens of contract crews in the Dallas Region to replace pipe. Most importantly, if a customer calls to report a gas smell, our highly trained service technicians are there to respond. Our culture of teamwork and inclusion means we can move fast and quickly adapt.

To do our part to slow the spread, our business was transformed to enable remote work, including two customer support centers, the gas supply team, two gas control centers, our shared service teams, and more than 200 operational service centers across our eight-state service territory. Today, more than 95 percent of our 4,800 employees work remotely and continue to perform at the highest level.

Our field operations personnel report directly to the job site and receive electronic work orders from a remote dispatch team. Construction work is captured digitally through GPS-enabled tablets, and our support staff uses Microsoft Teams to collaborate virtually from their home offices. Employees have smart phones, tablets, or laptops to keep connected, and our world-class technical training curriculum continues virtually. All of this is a testament to our ongoing investments in culture and technology, which have enabled us to be adaptive, innovative, and stay laser focused on safety.

Our employees are following safety protocols we designed using CDC guidelines. Employees embraced the opportunity to do their part to protect themselves and others by practicing social distancing and wearing face coverings while working in our communities.

Q: What is Atmos Energy doing to ensure health and safety in our neighborhoods?

Every day in neighborhoods across our service territory, our 4,800 employees are doing the right things the right way to take care of each other, their families, and our communities. Our customer service agents use screening protocols when working with customers to ensure that our service technicians who are emergency responders remain healthy and available to respond to emergencies. Their outstanding effort is reflected in the fact that during the month of April – when shelter in place orders were in effect – our customer service agent satisfaction scores were 97.6 percent, and our service technician satisfaction scores were 97.4 percent.

Our employees also continue support their neighbors and communities – whether it’s filling backpacks for schoolkids, delivering water to fire departments, buying lunch to support local restaurants, treating our dedicated health care workers to a much deserved meal, or restocking food donation boxes.

I am so proud to be part of this team that continues to make a difference in the world.

Q: Before starting a digging project in a yard, what precautions should a resident take?

Because the stakes are so high during this pandemic, we are asking homeowners and contractors to delay non-essential digging. If you must dig, please take extreme caution and make sure you ALWAYS call 811 at least two days before digging to have utilities marked. It’s free, it’s the law and it’s a simple way we can keep our emergency responders and the public safe.