The Future of One-Call

October 5th, 2020 | 811, Damage Prevention, Feature Stories

“We are a damage prevention company who has a contact center and a call center. We’re a company who protects our community….If we identified ourselves as just a call center, then everything about us would be about answering a phone and hanging it up. It’s all that goes on behind the scenes that makes us much more…”
-Shakheana Fields

Damage prevention comes in many different shades and colors, from personal interaction and professional skills in the field to technical innovations and conversations in the office. One thing is certain, that the dedicated personnel at Texas811, the nation’s largest one-call center, have set their goals high to make damage prevention and digging safely the core culture of workforces across the underground utility construction industry. As mediators and go-betweens for their member utilities, excavators and locators, Texas811 has positioned itself as a leader in bringing these parties together in pursuit of a future towards zero damages. Even as challenging circumstances have arisen in the midst of the global pandemic, the staff and leadership have adapted to the needs of their members and all those undertaking digging projects in the community and at home to make safety a top priority.

Planet Underground TV traveled to the Texas811 headquarters in Dallas, Texas to interview CEO, Chris Stovall; Marketing Director, Shakheana Fields; and Damage Prevention Director, John Sparks to learn more about the important work they undertake each day to ensure industry and public safety.

John Sparks Texas811John Sparks, Director of Damage Prevention

Tell us about your background and what interests you most about your role at Texas811.
I’ve been with the organization for 23 years. When I first started here, I didn’t have a real understanding of what damage prevention really meant and got a better idea once I was out in the field working with others. What interests me most, and I think one of the biggest challenges we have here in Texas, is changing the mindset, the culture, to being about taking preventative measures and thinking ahead. It’s making sure that you have your area marked in white. It’s looking at your job site, making sure that you’re not in conflict with the utilities and providing enough time for locates. 

“Over time, you start to realize that underground infrastructure is the lifeblood of our nation. You’re providing people with energy, a fresh water supply and other essential services.”
-John Sparks

Initially it was just a job, but once I started really understanding what the industry was about, damage prevention turned into a passion of mine. Over time, you start to realize that underground infrastructure is the lifeblood of our nation. You’re providing people with energy, a fresh water supply and other essential services.

Do you work closely with the large contract excavators? Do you see rising awareness of safety, especially when lives can be lost?
Yes, and a lot of our larger excavation contractors in Texas really have taken it to heart to promote that cultural change within their organizations. One of the ways that we can help administer that is to come in and provide training and education. I definitely think we’re seeing a shift now, with a lot more companies really putting the emphasis on damage prevention and safety, whereas it may not have been that way 10 years ago. I think the era of “cowboy contractors,” so to speak, is coming to an end, as a generational change in the workforce takes place and they embrace that safety mindset.

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