Hatfield is crucial link for crews, customers

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Rita Hatfield makes OPPD’s customers the center of her work, whether dispatching troubleshooters and crews or calling a customer to follow up after an outage.

As a system operations specialist, Hatfield sometimes makes direct calls to customers for reasons that include verifying whether lights are out or to get additional information before dispatching a crew or troubleshooter.

This communication is key to avoid putting a crew on the road for a false trip, which saves OPPD – and its customers – money.

“I love investigating problems and being part of the action,” Hatfield said. “I really enjoy the customer service aspect of this job.”

Hatfield, and her coworker Mandi Scott, are the connection between crews and those who control OPPD’s electrical system at the utility’s Energy Control Center in midtown Omaha. Hatfield is the voice on the line when field personnel confirm whether a switch is energized or not prior to performing repairs. She is key to their safety, a role in which Hatfield takes pride.

“I love working with field employees and helping them stay safe.”

She added that everything employees do in System Operations is centered on keeping their coworkers safe. To ensure this safety, there is a lot of planning, analysis, checking and double-checking going on behind the scenes in the dispatch office. They must also comply with federal guidelines in addition to OPPD policies and procedures. All while they work to restore power as quickly – and safely – as possible.

“All of this background work goes unseen by the public,” Hatfield said. “Sometimes crews have to wait for us to perform our functions and duties before they can respond. This can sometimes lead to the misconception that crews aren’t being productive since they can’t see the work behind the scenes.”

When an outage call is logged, Hatfield reviews and analyzes each incident before dispatching a troubleshooter. The analysis can include making sure the location is accurate and can even involve a call to the customers.

All of her area’s job functions directly and indirectly affect our customers, she said. The more accurate their records are, the more accurate information crews have and the quicker they can restore an outage.

The customer’s outage experience is important to Hatfield, who recently served on OPPD’s Customer Experience team, which was tasked with reviewing and improving the process. Hatfield enjoyed the project, which gave every aspect of the outage journey a voice, including her own.

Besides the day-to-day outage calls, Hatfield must also handle larger outage situations, such as last year’s severe storm that was the fourth worst in OPPD’s history.

Even though a storm event can be stressful and involve long hours, Hatfield enjoys the challenge.

“I am energized by how quickly the atmosphere can change and everyone jumps into restoration efforts.”

When she’s not keeping her coworkers safe and addressing customer outages, Hatfield enjoys spending time with her family by taking vacations to the western parts of the country. Her family especially enjoys visiting her parents on their western Nebraska farm and spending time at Lake McConaughy.

Laura King-Homan

About Laura King-Homan

Laura King-Homan is editor of The Wire and a communications specialist at the Omaha Public Power District. She has nearly 20 years of print journalism and design experience, most of that time spent at the Omaha World-Herald.

One thought on “Hatfield is crucial link for crews, customers”

  1. Us men out in the Field really appreciate Rita. She always has a great attitude and willing to help every time. She puts in the long hours in the storms, just like the line crews. She makes sure we stay safe! I can’t personally thank her enough.

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