Louisiana 811 brings their damage prevention message to national retailer

By Michael Downes, Staff Writer

Louisiana 811’s continued initiative to team up with area retail and rental companies has reached a new milestone as ten Home Depot locations have agreed to partner with LA811 to help remind their customers about the importance of calling 811 before they dig.

Brent Saltzman, damage prevention manager with Louisiana 811, knew that Georgia811 been in touch with the corporate office of the Atlanta-based retail giant in an effort to add an informative 811 wrap around the trunk of trees sold in their Garden Center. The Home Depot was on board with the outreach effort and one thing led to another; ten Louisiana stores were included in the tree wrap initiative, as well as others across the country.

The tree wraps were well received by The Home Depot’s Kayla Johnson, operations assistant store manager for Store 357 on Coursey Blvd in Baton Rouge. She helped bring the two organizations together, united by the common goal of protecting the public. One of Kayla’s roles is safety and security of the store and its employees, so it was a natural fit.

While she hasn’t personally been in a situation that requires calling in a locate request — she lives in an apartment — as a safety-oriented employee, she understands the importance of preventing deadly utility strikes.

“With our customers’ safety being the top priority in our store, the 811 partnership helps to keep our customers safe at home,” she said.

Kayla said The Home Depot sold more than 2500 trees and rosebushes this year just at her location. That means the damage prevention message could reach at least 2500 new people this fall as those plants are installed throughout the area.

Many homeowners know to call 811 for trenching or other major construction projects, but there are a lot of folks who may not realize planting trees also requires a locate request.

Louisiana law requires anybody doing any kind of digging to call in a locate request at least 48 hours before work begins. That includes not just trees, but also fences and mailbox posts, sprinkler systems and even some fire pits.

Some homeowners may think they know where all the utilities are located on their property, but new construction, erosion or zig-zags in the line may mean there are unknown dangers lurking just below the surface. Everybody is required to call before they dig, regardless of how sure they are about what utilities may cross their yard.

After Kayla agreed to add a wrap to the trees, Brent asked about the next phase of his public awareness campaign.

“I asked if I could hang a banner in her Garden Center, and Kayla was more than willing to do that. In fact, she asked if we could provide banners for all ten stores in her district — we jumped at that opportunity. She even asked if there was anything she and her employees could hand out to customers at checkout. We will provide that literature, as well,” Brent said.

During peak times, Kayla said her store serves 20,000 customers per week, providing a lot of exposure to the damage prevention message. Adding banners to home improvement stores like this one increases the chance that the damage prevention message reaches a new audience, and this strategy has been used by One Call Centers in other states.

Leaders at Louisiana 811 hope the partnership with The Home Depot proves to be a success and encourages other retailers to get on board as well. Several commercial equipment rental facilities throughout the state also promote 811 with banners and even stickers on digging tools. It’s all part of the group’s plan to reach the excavating public where they are.

“I wish everyone was so willing to help spread the message as Kayla. She was a pleasure to work with and went above and beyond my expectations,” he said.