JUNO BEACH, Fla. – With the 2010 hurricane season just weeks away, Florida Power & Light Company today conducted the final major exercise in its annual, company-wide preparations for emergency response and restoration in the event that a hurricane makes landfall in FPL’s service territory.
FPL’s comprehensive storm plan focuses on readiness, restoration and recovery in order to respond safely and as quickly as possible if a hurricane strikes its service territory.
While more than four years have passed since a major hurricane affected FPL customers, FPL continues to take storm season preparation extremely seriously, working to advance its restoration capabilities and continuously investing to improve the reliability and resiliency of its infrastructure.
“Florida Power & Light employees know our customers count on us to restore power and help get their lives back to normal after a destructive storm. While no utility can ever be 100 percent storm-proof, FPL trains rigorously so we are prepared to respond,” said Irene White, FPL’s senior director of operations support. “If a hurricane strikes, FPL will be working around the clock to restore service safely and as quickly as possible to each and every one of our customers.”
FPL Responds to Virtual Hurricane Ari
Employees from across the company participated in the annual hurricane drill to practice FPL’s emergency response plan, which includes tracking outages, assessing damage, communicating with customers and employees and initiating service restoration. Throughout the simulation, FPL tested its storm plans and tactics, applying lessons learned from previous hurricanes and other extreme weather events.
This year’s virtual hurricane, “Ari,” was a simulated storm that formed in the Atlantic and made landfall in Palm Beach County near Delray Beach as a Category 3. The storm then moved north across the state, passing directly over Lake Okeechobee before exiting the state north of Lake City.
To make the simulation as real as possible, FPL generated damage estimates for the fictional scenario. These estimates were based on scientific models built from decades of storm data and included other potential real-life factors such as post-storm weather, gas supplies and school-opening goals to test the ability of the team to remain flexible but focused on the ultimate mission: restoring power to customers safely and as quickly as possible.
FPL works year-round to prepare for hurricane season, conducting extensive training so its employees can respond safely and as quickly as possible if a storm threatens its service territory. FPL also coordinates assistance agreements with other utilities for out-of-state support, orders restoration supplies and equipment and secures staging sites throughout its 35-county service territory. These preparations enable the company to quickly deploy equipment and crews to storm-damaged communities.
In addition, FPL works closely with emergency operations officials to update lists of infrastructure and facilities that are critical to the community, such as hospitals, police and fire stations, 911 communication facilities, water treatment plants and transportation providers.
In fact, FPL has strengthened the power lines serving every major hospital and acute care facility in its service territory to better withstand Florida’s strong winds and severe weather. And last year, FPL invested more than $80 million to strengthen the infrastructure serving these critical facilities.
Prior to storm season, the company strengthened its infrastructure by:
- Clearing tree limbs and branches from approximately 13,000 miles of power lines.
- Inspecting approximately 140,000 poles and 16,500 transmission structures for strength and health.
- Upgrading thousands of poles and transmission structures from wood to concrete or steel.
- Inspecting power lines and equipment with Thermovision infrared technology.
These preparations are all part of FPL’s comprehensive, long-term plan to deliver reliable electric service, in good weather and bad.
When outages occur, FPL knows that its customers need information about when their power will be restored. If a major storm impacts FPL’s service territory, FPL will be working to restore power as soon as it is safe to begin and will provide its best estimates of when service will be restored.
After a storm clears, FPL deploys field teams to conduct damage assessments. This helps FPL assign the right resources, crews and materials to each effort and provide customers an estimate of when repairs will be finished and power restored in their area. FPL’s goals for providing service restoration information are as follows:
- Within hours after the storm passes, FPL will provide a preliminary estimate of how long it will take to restore service based on its models and historical information from similar storms.
- Within 24 hours after the storm, based on initial damage assessments, FPL will update its systemwide estimate.
- Within 48 hours, FPL will provide restoration information on a county basis.
- Within 72 to 96 hours, FPL will provide information on a sub-county level.
Estimated times of restoration (ETRs) are determined largely by the amount of damage a storm inflicts on the electrical infrastructure and the amount of restoration resources available. After a major storm, 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 and follows an overall plan to restore power to the greatest number of customers safely and as quickly as possible:
- FPL restores power plants and affected transmission lines and substations, which are essential to providing any electric service.
- Simultaneously, the company restores electrical lines and equipment that serve critical facilities such as hospitals, police and fire stations, water treatment plants and 911 communication centers.
- At the same time, FPL 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, pharmacies, gas stations and other needed community services.
- From here, FPL repairs the infrastructure serving smaller groups and neighborhoods, converging on the hardest hit areas until every customer is restored.
As the restoration gets under way, customers are advised to monitor local radio, television, newspapers and the FPL website (www.FPL.com/storm) if possible for specific reports on progress in assessing and repairing damage to the electric system in their areas.
FPL’s Storm Restoration Organization
- Area Command Center – From this location, FPL manages its restoration efforts throughout its 35-county service territory. The Area Command Center coordinates the overall event, providing policy and strategic guidance.
- 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. Potential sites across the state are pre-selected before storm season.
- Logistics – The logistics team provides support to the staging sites, securing services such as materials, food, water and housing.
Storm Preparation Tips for Customers
Safety is FPL’s first priority before, during and after a storm. FPL advises its customers to learn all they 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. Customers are advised to:
- Visit www.FPL.com/storm for preparation tips and follow the advice of your local emergency management officials. Prepare to be self-sufficient for three to 14 days and 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 and after a severe storm.
- Put your FPL account number and phone number (1-800-4-OUTAGE or 1-800-468-8243) 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 FPL’s automated system.
- If you plan to operate a portable generator in the event of an outage at your home, wait until the storm has passed and be sure to set up the generator outside and connect appliances directly to it. Do not wire your generator directly to your breaker or fuse box because the power it generates can flow back into power lines and cause injuries. Only a licensed electrician should connect a generator to a main electrical panel. Never operate a generator inside your home or even in the garage, and keep it well away from open windows so exhaust does not enter your home or a neighbor’s home.
- Stay away from downed power lines, flooding and debris. Don’t walk in standing water, and don’t venture out in the dark because you might not see a downed power line that could be energized and dangerous. If you see a downed power line, call 911 or 1-800-4-OUTAGE.
- For additional safety tips, visit www.FPL.com/storm, and remember to always follow the advice of your local emergency management officials.
Following a Storm: Advice for Customers
Right after a storm, FPL will know if damage to large power lines has interrupted your service. 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.
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 power has been restored to your neighborhood, but your home is still without power, please visually inspect the following before calling FPL:
- All circuit breakers and fuses – If you have significant water damage that might make it unsafe to check these, call a licensed electrician for assistance.
- The area outside your home or office near the meter – If the meter, piping or wires appear missing or damaged, call a licensed electrician for advice.
If no problems are apparent, please have your account number available and call FPL’s automated system at 1-800-4-OUTAGE to report your outage information. FPL will re-connect your service or assist in determining whether you have a household problem.
NOTE TO EDITORS: For additional information on FPL’s storm readiness, year-round reliability and system strengthening investments, b-roll and/or a restoration process diagram, please call the FPL Media Line at 305-552-3888.
Florida Power & Light Company
Florida Power & Light Company (FPL) is the largest electric utility in Florida and one of the largest rate-regulated utilities in the United States. FPL serves approximately 4.5 million customer accounts in Florida and is a leading employer in the state with 10,500 employees. The company consistently outperforms national averages for service reliability while customer bills are below the national average. A clean energy leader, FPL has one of the lowest emissions profiles and one of the leading energy efficiency programs among utilities nationwide. FPL is a subsidiary of Juno Beach, Fla.-based FPL Group, Inc. (NYSE: FPL). For more information, visit www.FPL.com.