FPL activates its storm organization to practice Hurricane Elise;

May 4, 2006
FPL activates its storm organization to practice Hurricane Elise; “Dry run” exercise tests company’s storm response

MIAMI, Fla. -- Florida Power & Light Company today conducted its annual mock hurricane exercise where employees practice a “dry run” scenario of what might occur if a real storm made landfall in the future. This year, the simulated storm was named “Hurricane Elise,” a powerful Category 4 hurricane that threatened the South Florida coastline from Palm Beach to the Keys for three days before finally making landfall in the northern part of Miami-Dade County, a heavily populated urban area.

“Every year we train our employees and practice different scenarios because we know that every hurricane is different and each brings with it its own set of problems,” said Geisha Williams, FPL’s vice president of distribution and the FPL executive in charge of storm restoration. “We practice our dry run as if it was a real storm. We countdown from 72 hours until the hurricane makes landfall and follow through with the storm event post-landfall to study what significant problems we might encounter. The lessons we learn are captured and incorporated into preparedness plan.”

For the purpose of the exercise, Hurricane Elise made landfall in northern Miami-Dade County, one of the most densely populated areas in FPL’s service territory. The simulated hurricane crossed the state as a Category 3 bringing destruction to everything in its path until it reached the Gulf of Mexico in the Sarasota area. The storm regained strength and entered Florida’s Panhandle before crossing the state in the area of Tallahassee as a tropical storm.

“As we practiced what would happen under a hurricane scenario such as Elise, it became evident that the communities we serve would face a tremendous challenge; our customers would be facing a storm of catastrophic proportions,” Williams said. “A real hurricane with Elise’s strength and proportions would have an impact on our ability to begin restoring power immediately because of the extensive destruction to the community infrastructure. We would be facing more of a rebuilding effort as opposed to what we have experienced the last two years, which has been mainly restoration.”

With the advent of more active future hurricane seasons predicted by weather experts, practicing a catastrophic storm scenario that tests all of a company’s resources and systems was imperative, Williams added. “We hope our customers never face a storm like Elise. Nevertheless, we want our customers to be assured that we are prepared for all types of contingencies, including the most catastrophic.”

FPL’s Storm Secure Plan

In addition to FPL’s annual dry run practice, this year the utility initiated its Storm Securesm Plan, a five point plan created to address increased hurricane activity by strengthening the grid against future hurricanes. The plan, proposed to the Florida Public Service Commission by FPL, targets five key areas with the objective of making the system stronger, having a positive effect in storm restoration for years to come, minimizing outages and enabling a faster restoration.

  • Hardening the electric network – FPL is the first utility in the nation to propose adopting the National Electrical Safety Code standard for extreme wind velocity zone criteria --withstanding wind gusts of up to 150 mph-- for all new distribution construction and system upgrades.
  • Investing and promoting underground conversions – FPL will invest 25 percent of the cost of converting overhead to underground. More than 37 percent of FPL’s current system is already underground.
  • Pole inspection, treatment and replacement program – The program has been modified to include a systematic eight-year inspection and treatment cycle for all 1.1 million distribution wood poles.
  • Line clearing/vegetation management – FPL is increasing its line-clearing activities by 27 percent in 2006. Each year, the company expects to complete 75 percent of its planned feeder line clearing by July 31. Power lines serving critical infrastructure facilities will be cleared every year by May 31, prior to the start of the hurricane season.
  • Completion of post-hurricane repairs and targeted facility upgrades – Through this process, FPL is rehabilitating and strengthening the electrical grid while getting prepared for the 2006 season.

FPL’s storm organization