Have you ever seen a communication tower that looks like a tree? Allstate Tower’s inspections visually inspect about 800 towers in an average year. That includes cable television towers, cellular towers, broadcast towers, and river crossing towers, which hold high-powered electric lines across rivers. And yes, Allstate also inspects stealth towers like monopines or monopalms, which are monopole towers disguised to look like trees, as well as towers designed to look like storage grain bins.
Allstate Director of Inspections Von Hannah has worked for the Johnston family in some capacity since 1995 – excluding a roughly two-year period. He first worked at Nationwide Tower, which was owned by the late Don Johnston. He’s been with Allstate since 2007 when it bought out his previous company.
As director of inspections, Von does a little bit of everything. Von’s responsible for making sure his crews are well-trained and that they are conducting their inspections thoroughly. He also makes sure the inspections reports are written in compliance.
He works with customers once their inspections are completed. He helps inform them of any issues with their towers and provides guidance on what they might need to do next as far as maintenance or repairs. He also provides quotes. Once maintenance work is sold, Von confers with the other departments to make sure the work Allstate has sold is completed.
The most common work needed on a tower includes ultrasounds, plumb and tension, replacing rusty antenna hardware, and resolving grounding issues. Maintenance crews handle most maintenance work, but Allstate’s inspections department can handle plumb and tensions, troubleshooting light systems, and repairing old light kits.
Von oversees about ten people total in the office and out in the field.
Allstate has one in-house inspection crew and subcontractors that handle inspections. The in-house crew includes foreman Keith Fischer and climber Nick Reinhart. Orlando Rosell and Chad Sayers, who Von has worked with since the late ‘90s, are two of Allstate’s subcontractors whom they work with frequently. Both men are foremen.
Keith Fischer has worked for Allstate for six years as the field supervisor. As far as he’s concerned, the inspections department is the best in the company.
Keith has a wide variety of job duties ranging from training and supervising inspection crews, troubleshooting and fixing tower lighting systems. He also works in the office, assisting both the inspection and maintenance departments.
“Working for Allstate has shown me that there are company’s out there that don’t just consider their employees a number, and I personally feel valued,” Keith said. “If you do a good job, work hard, and take pride in your work, anyone can move up and progress in the company.”
While he sacrifices time away from home, he said he has pretty cool management. One of his jobs needed work that he’d never done before. Luckily, he said, Von’s door is always open.
“I talked to Von about it, and he was ready to pack up and make a six-hour drive to help out,” Keith said. “Not all management is like that, and that dedicated to their employees.”
The project manager for Allstate Tower’s inspections department, Brittany Miller, has been with the company for six years. She started as an inspection writer proofing reports. With hard work and dedication, she moved up to become the project manager.
“In my six years working hear AST has become more than a job, it’s become an extension of my family,” said Brittany. “Working here I don’t dread coming into work like I did at other jobs in the past.”
Her job duties include scheduling jobs, running the crews, invoicing completed jobs, communicating with the customers’ details about their jobs, typing quotes, proofing reports, sending out the completed inspection reports, and whatever else comes up in the meantime.
“One of my favorite things about working here at Allstate is it’s never boring,” Brittany said. “Every job comes with a different set of tasks.”
Allstate offers both remote drone inspections and inspections where a climber scales a tower and physically inspects it. Climbers have the advantage of being able to see up close and even feel the inside of the tower’s legs, welds, bolts, and small nicks and cuts. They are also able to listen for air leaks in the coax as they scale the tower.
Inspections crew undergo training before entering the field.
“It takes about six months to really trust what a guy is seeing and telling you,” said Von. “You see so many towers in six months on a crew that a guy can get a really good handle on what they are doing in six months.”
Training is ongoing because antennas are continuously undergoing changes and updates.
“I tell people all the time, I’m still learning,” said Von. “I’ve been here almost 25 years, and I’m still learning.”
In the past several years, Von has learned how to operate a drone. Von, along with Keith and Orlando are FAA certified drone operators.
Drones are especially handy for inspecting self-supporting towers with no grips or footholds and those damaged for weather-related or environmental reasons. Allstate does a lot of drone inspections along the Gulf of Mexico, which is frequently battered by storms.
Tornados, hurricanes, earthquakes, ice storms, and other such events spur a need for inspections since towers are potentially compromised. After an ice storm, for instance, if the ice stays on the guy-wire too long, it will start to sag and stretch.
Allstate typically sends a link in Dropbox that the customer can download straight to their computers once an inspection is complete. They can also burn a copy of the inspection report on a thumb drive if the customer doesn’t have access to Dropbox.
The inspections department stays busy.
“The people who work for me work very hard and are very good people,” said Von. “We do everything we possibly can do to keep our customers happy. Brittany and the guys do a good job at it. We definitely take pride in our work.”
“We’re small but mighty!” said Brittany. “We might have only have a few people in our department, but we do our best at every inspection report we send out.”