Need to let a service worker into your home during the pandemic? Here’s what to expect.

Here are the precautions essential services such as utilities and plumbers are taking during the pandemic.
Some issues, such as a power outage or broken pipe, can’t wait during the pandemic. Here’s what to expect in Tampa Bay if you need help from a service provider during COVID-19. Pictured is a Duke Energy employee trying to get power back on in a Clearwater neighborhood in 2017. [Times (2017)]
Some issues, such as a power outage or broken pipe, can’t wait during the pandemic. Here’s what to expect in Tampa Bay if you need help from a service provider during COVID-19. Pictured is a Duke Energy employee trying to get power back on in a Clearwater neighborhood in 2017. [Times (2017)] [ - | LARA CERRI ]
Published May 2, 2020

During the pandemic, social distancing has put many face-to-face services on hold to prevent the spread of COVID-19. But some issues, such as a busted pipe, power outage or broken air conditioner, can’t wait. Here’s what to expect in the Tampa Bay area if you need help from a service provider during the pandemic.

Electricity and utilities

Duke Energy Florida: Because Duke Energy is considered an essential service, as are other utilities, it is still responding to events such as power outages, emergencies and some specific service orders, spokeswoman Ana Gibbs said. Most often, she said, Duke Energy employees won’t need to come into a home, and may knock on someone’s door to let them know employees are accessing an electrical line or equipment on or through that person’s property.

“If our Duke Energy representative does need to interact with the customer in person for any of those,” Gibbs said, “they have to follow the recommendations the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) put out for safety guidelines.”

That includes wearing a mask and social distancing. Duke Energy is still installing smart meters on customers’ homes, as installations are on a home’s exterior and often require just one worker.

Tampa Electric Co.: The Tampa-based utility is also responding to emergencies and power outages during the pandemic, but has suspended services that aren’t time-sensitive, such as in-home energy audits. Tampa Electric is also installing smart meters during this time.

For any necessary services that can be performed by one employee, employees will wear protective equipment such as masks and gloves. Employees disinfect shared equipment, including tools and trucks.

“Under current conditions, Tampa Electric employees do not have close contact with customers,” spokeswoman Cherie Jacobs said.

Peoples Gas: Tampa Electric’s sister company is limiting any fieldwork to essential services and is cutting down on any in-person contact. Customers scheduling a service appointment will be asked if they or anyone else at the residence has had COVID-19 or flu-like symptoms within the past two weeks, spokeswoman Sylvia Vega said. Employees will have masks and gloves and will sanitize shared tools and vehicles.

Cable and internet

Spectrum: One of Tampa Bay’s major internet and cable providers, Spectrum is working with customers by phone and online to walk them through basic issues. Spectrum is currently sending out self-installation kits to customers’ homes with directions.

“We do everything we can to take care of it from the outside,” said Joseph Durkin, spokesman for Spectrum parent company Charter Communications.

Should an employee need to enter a customer’s house, Durkin said they follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, wear a mask and practice social distancing.

Frontier Communications: Frontier, too, said it is following federally recommended safety protocols and supplies its employees with protective gear. During the pandemic, Frontier is doing contact-free installations and repairs to limit any in-home contact. It is working with customers by phone or text for any steps they are able to take on their own.

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“Frontier will continue to respond with the safety of our employees, customers and the communities we serve as the highest priority,” spokesman Bob Elek said in statement.

Home security

ADT: The company is trying to solve customers’ issues over the phone rather than having an in-home appointment, according to its website. Door-to-door sales are on hold.

All field staffers are “making sure the customer’s household is healthy before arriving” and are also checking in daily with their managers about how they’re feeling.

Any staff not feeling 100 percent should stay home, said company spokesman Bob Tucker. When staff does come into the home at the request of a customer, they will be wearing masks, gloves and booties, he said.

SimpliSafe: These security products can be ordered online and self-installed, but if a technician is needed to provide help, SimpliSafe partners with another company, HelloTech. According to HelloTech’s website, they’re encouraging customers to maintain 6-foot distances from their employees. The company is also asking any customer who feels sick to cancel their service, and is waiving cancellation fees related to illness.

Plumbing and air conditioning and heating

Caldeco Air Conditioning and Heating: Technicians are still going into people’s homes, because not having air conditioning as the weather heats up can be dangerous to one’s health, said company owner Rick Caldevilla. Employees are wearing masks and gloves when they interact with customers and are keeping their distance as much as possible.

Caldevilla is also advising technicians to wash their hands between each house they visit. Any customers who have COVID-positive people in their home will need to reschedule regular maintenance until that person is well, he added.

Busto Plumbing: After ceasing service calls for several weeks, Tampa-based Busto Plumbing last week started making service calls to customers’ houses again, said Jason Busto, the company’s president.

“We’re happy to be back helping people daily with plumbing challenges,” he said.

The plumbers wear masks and gloves and are keeping their distance, Busto added.

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