After a Quieter Friday, Atmos Says It’s Planning Better Communication Tools

atmosAs Atmos Energy crews began the process of replacing aging pipe in an area where 2,800 homes are without gas service after a massive shut down that followed days after a fatal home explosion, Friday was quiet in comparison to the chaotic days prior.

According to city officials, after Thursday night’s debacle at both the Walnut Hill Recreation Center and Bachman Recreation Center that left hundreds waiting in line for hours late into the night to receive assistance from the company, things seemed to have evened out the day after.

Today’s operations appeared to have been much smoother,” assistant city manager Jon Fortune said in an update for Friday. “There were some lines early this morning, but throughout the day, operations were mostly efficient.”

The city anticipated that the lines might return Friday night as people returned to the area from work.

But as is the case with many disasters — natural or man-made — some are beginning to take advantage of the chaos to nefarious ends. Atmos warned customers Friday that scammers were going door-to-door telling affected residents that they needed to enter their homes to turn off gas. In some cases, people told us Friday, the perpetrators asked for the homeowner’s keys, so they could enter the residence.

Atmos is advising residents to call 911 if someone asks to enter their home and will not show their Atmos identification. If the person at your door asks for house keys, homeowners are advised to also call 911, because this is not a company practice.

The service centers at both recreation centers will remain open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and on Sunday from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

“The City has asked Atmos to develop a plan for the opening of additional centers for Monday through Wednesday of next week to support residents needing their financial assistance renewed, though we do not yet have confirmation that additional sites will be added,” Fortune said.

The city of Dallas has tapped into their bank of Community Emergency Response Team volunteers to assist with running these centers.

“Additionally, the City has connected with churches in the nearby area that are planning to support the centers with volunteers,” Fortune said. “We are grateful to these organizations stepping up to support the families of their immediate community.”

Monday, the hotel reservations for the first homes evacuated after the explosion at the Rogers home  —  20 homes and 90 families from the Chapel Creek apartments — will expire.  

“Should repairs not be completed by Monday, these residents will be eligible for the same financial assistance as those affected by the broader planned outage area,” Fortune said. “Atmos staff have already contacted these residents to inform them of this assistance and the steps for issuing assistance to them.”

“Atmos has also covered a full month of rent for the residents of the Chapel Creek apartments due to this incident.”

As the first wave of five day per diem checks and debit cards begins to reach the end of that time period, Atmos said that residents who are still without gas or are still evacuated will be able to renew their assistance.

“Atmos staff are also using information collected by residents at the information centers as well as billing records to contact residents a second time to ensure they know of the renewal process,” Fortune said. 

In the upcoming days, the company has said that renewals will come in the form of a reloadable debit card. The card will automatically be refilled by Atmos every five days until the resident is home and has gas service.

The city is also working with the company to create and distribute maps of the repair progress and an interactive web map that will give updated information on current progress and the status of individual homes. It is expected that this map will be launched before the weekend is out.