Juno Beach, FL – It’s been almost two and half years since Hurricane Wilma made landfall, the last of seven storms to hit Florida Power & Light Company’s service territory in a 15 month period. Yet every year the company prepares for storm season as if the next Wilma could arrive tomorrow.
To test its ability to respond before and after a hurricane, FPL management and employees conduct an annual exercise simulating a hurricane landfall somewhere in the company’s service area. The mock drill, known as a “Dry Run” exercise, concludes today and culminates four days of intensive practice by FPL personnel to prepare themselves in the event of a real hurricane this storm season.
“Our annual storm Dry Run exercise is part of our commitment to our customers to be proactive and prepared for the challenge of hurricane season. Dry Run allows us to test every aspect of what FPL will do in the event of a real storm,” said Al Alfonso, FPL’s vice president of distribution.
This year’s mock storm was named “Beta,” an October hurricane that starts its life in the Atlantic and slowly grows to a huge and powerful Category 5 hurricane before slowly making its way to South Florida. “Beta” makes landfall as a strong Category 3 storm between Miami-Dade and Broward Counties, then cuts a curving path through Palm Beach and other communities up the coast before heading out to sea near Port St. Lucie. Similar to some of the hurricanes of the 2004 and 2005 hurricane seasons, Hurricane “Beta” is an urban weather event that tears through some of the company’s most densely populated coastal areas.
Throughout the four days of practice FPL tests its storm plans and tactics, applying “lessons learned” from previous hurricanes and other extreme events such as tornadoes. Dry Run brings together thousands of FPL employees to practice the company’s emergency plan, which includes tracking outages, assessing damage, communicating with customers and employees, and initiating the service restoration plan. To make the exercise as real as possible, FPL computers generate the damage a storm will bring to the electrical system. FPL also considers other factors, such as post-storm weather, elections and school openings to test the ability of the team to remain flexible and focused on the ultimate mission: restoring power to customers safely and as quickly as possible.
In conjunction with Dry Run, FPL begins to make storm preparations months in advance of hurricane season. FPL works with its suppliers to stock up on poles, wires and other electrical equipment that might be needed in the event of a storm. The company reviews its inventory of hotels and food vendors who will be called upon to house and feed the thousands of men and women required in a restoration effort that may last weeks. FPL secures staging sites throughout its 35 county service area from where it can quickly deploy equipment and crews to storm-damaged communities.
FPL follows a process that restores power to the largest number of customers first while taking into consideration the welfare and urgent needs of the community. First, the company repairs damage to power generation plants and lines that carry power from the plants. Concurrently, the company focuses on repairing poles and lines that serve critical infrastructure, such as hospitals, police, fire, communications, water, sanitary and transportation services. Next, the company works to return service to the largest number of customers in the shortest amount of time – including service to the main thoroughfares that host supermarkets, gas stations and other needed community services. This is followed by the next largest number of customers until crews converge in the hardest hit areas and every customer is restored.
Estimated Times of Restoration
Immediately after a storm, FPL deploys field teams to conduct neighborhood-by-neighborhood damage assessments. This helps FPL to assign the right resources, crews and materials to each effort and to provide customers an estimate of when repairs will be finished and power restored in their area. Depending on the severity of the storm, FPL will provide a total system Estimated Time of Restoration (ETR) within 24 hours after a storm has passed and no longer poses a safety risk to field teams and restoration crews. County ETRs are provided within 48 hours, and sub-county ETRs within 72 to 96 hours.
FPL does not assign restoration work according to when a customer calls to report an outage, where a customer lives, or the status of an account. FPL begins work in multiple locations wherever storm damage had interrupted service and follows an overall plan that prioritizes groups over individuals.
FPL’s storm restoration organization
FPL’s storm structure is divided into three distinct areas.
- Storm command center. From this location, FPL manages the restoration efforts throughout its 35-county service area, working through various FPL service centers and a number of staging sites. The command center is where the restoration and logistics planning takes place and where instruction is provided to staging sites and service centers on how to go about restoring power to the communities.
- Work bases. These are the staging sites and service centers that house the thousands of restoration crews and support personnel who are executing the restoration plan. These sites are pre-selected before the storm season and arrangements are made beforehand for technology hookups.
- Logistics. The logistics team provides emergency support to the staging sites, securing services such as materials, food, water and housing.
“We are preparing ourselves to respond to hurricanes and to restore service as quickly as possible. No electrical system can ever be made 100 percent hurricane-proof, and we encourage our customers to prepare for an extended outage just in case. While we are continuing to strengthen our system to minimize damage, reduce power outages, and restore service more quickly, we recognize that being without electricity after a natural disaster is difficult for everyone. Our customers can help by preparing their families and businesses so that we can all better manage the aftermath of a storm,” said Alfonso.
Following are some tips to aid FPL customers in storm preparations:
- Learn all you can about how to prepare for a storm, what to do during a storm, and how to make safety a priority after a storm when utilities and normal community services may be interrupted.
- Consult your local emergency management officials for preparation advice. Residents are usually advised to be self sufficient for three to 14 days and to keep a battery-operated radio on hand with a two-week supply of fresh batteries. A battery-operated radio may be the only way to receive emergency public information during a disaster.
- Put your FPL account number and phone number (1-800-4-OUTAGE) in a secure location that will be readily available in case you need to call. By knowing your account number, you will be able to quickly access your account and receive important information through our automated system.
- If your plan include operating a portable generator in the event of an outage at your home, wait until the storm has passed and be sure to set it up outside and connect appliances directly to it. Please do not wire your generator directly to your breaker or fuse box, because the power you generate may flow back into power lines and cause injuries.
How does FPL know who’s without power and when should I call?
- Right after a storm, we’ll know if damage to large power lines has interrupted your service. Please help us keep the phone lines open for emergencies by calling FPL only to report dangerous situations such as downed power lines or sparking electrical equipment.
- If your neighborhood gets power back a day or two after a storm but you are still without power, please call us at 1-800-4-OUTAGE. Please have your account number available when you call and an automated system will record your outage information.
- Stay tuned to local radio, TV and newspapers for specific reports on FPL’s progress in assessing and repairing damage to the electrical system in your area.
As a customer, what can I do after a storm?
- Stay away from downed lines, flooding and debris. Don’t walk in standing water and don’t venture out in the dark because you might not see a power line that could still be energized and dangerous.
- Before you call to report an outage, check all circuit breakers or fuses to help determine if your service outage might be the result of a household problem.
- If you have significant water damage in your home that might make it unsafe, call a licensed electrician for advice.
- Visually inspect the area outside your home near the meter. If the meter or any of the piping and wires on the wall of your home or office appear missing or damaged, call an electrician for advice.
- If no problems are apparent, FPL will re-connect your service or assist in determining whether you have a household problem.
For additional information on how to prepare for the hurricane season, please visit FPL’s website at www.FPL.com/storm.
NOTE TO EDITORS: for additional information on FPL’s storm preparedness, FPL’s ongoing reliability measures, b-roll, and/or restoration process diagram, please call FPL’s media line at 305-552-3888.
Florida Power & Light Company is a subsidiary of FPL Group, Inc. (NYSE: FPL), nationally known as a high quality, efficient and customer-driven organization focused on energy-related products and services. With annual revenues of over $15 billion and a growing presence in 27 states, FPL Group is widely recognized as one of the country's premier power companies. Florida Power & Light Company serves 4.5 million customer accounts in Florida. FPL Energy, LLC, FPL Group's competitive energy subsidiary, is a leader in producing electricity from clean and renewable fuels. Additional information is available on the Internet at www.FPL.com, www.FPLGroup.com and www.FPLEnergy.com.