JUNO BEACH, Fla. – Florida Power & Light Company today conducted the final major exercise in its annual, company-wide emergency response and restoration preparations in advance of hurricane season.
With long-range forecasts predicting another active hurricane season, FPL continues to take storm season preparation seriously, working to advance its restoration capabilities and investing in improvements to 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 Gale
FPL’s comprehensive storm plan focuses on readiness, restoration and recovery in order to safely respond as quickly as possible after a hurricane strikes. Employees from across the company participated in the annual hurricane drill to practice the plan, which includes pre-positioning resources, tracking outages, modeling and assessing damage, communicating with customers and initiating restoration.
Throughout the simulation, FPL tested its storm response strategy and tactics, incorporating new technology and applying lessons learned from previous hurricanes and other extreme weather events.
This year’s simulated hurricane, “Gale,” formed in the Atlantic Ocean and made landfall near the City of North Miami as a Category 3. The storm then moved northward and exited at Brevard County. This storm created pockets of severe flooding in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, adding significantly to the restoration challenge.
To make the simulation as real as possible, FPL generates damage estimates for the fictional scenario 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 prepares year-round 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 Florida. These preparations enable the company to quickly deploy crews and equipment 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.
Since 2006, FPL has strengthened the electrical infrastructure serving every major hospital and acute care facility in its service territory to better withstand Florida’s strong winds and severe weather. Overall in 2010, FPL invested more than $100 million in distribution system reliability programs, including vegetation management, priority feeders and overhead line inspections, to keep reliability high for customers. In addition, FPL invested more than $45 million in 2010 to strengthen the distribution system infrastructure. While a severe storm will still cause outages, these strengthening investments are designed to facilitate faster restoration for the most critical facilities following a storm.
FPL’s comprehensive, long-term plan to deliver reliable electric service, in good weather and bad, includes the following activities in 2011:
- Clearing tree limbs and branches from approximately 12,000 miles of power lines
- Inspecting approximately 140,000 poles and completing the remaining first cycle of inspections on transmission structures
- Upgrading thousands of wood poles and transmission structures to concrete or steel
- Inspecting power lines and equipment with advanced infrared technology
As a Storm Approaches
When a severe storm is forecast to make landfall on FPL’s service territory, the company activates its emergency response plan to prepare for potential damage to the electrical infrastructure, which can be caused by rainfall, flooding, high winds, lightning, storm surge, blowing debris or falling trees. These factors can affect both overhead and underground power lines, and customers should be aware that restoration efforts in the wake of a damaging storm can be lengthy. Based on forecasts and experience, FPL prepositions crews, supplies and equipment so, after the storm passes, they can be deployed as quickly as possible to the affected communities.
Depending on the severity of the storm, the company may request reinforcements from other utilities and establish staging sites throughout its 35-county service territory prior to landfall. Also, although FPL's nuclear power plants are built to safely withstand Category 5 hurricane forces and associated "worst-case" storm surges, FPL shuts them down before hurricane-force winds impact the sites, as part of the company's standard storm procedures.
After a storm clears, FPL immediately deploys field teams to conduct damage assessments in affected areas. This helps the company assign appropriate resources, crews and materials to each effort and provide customers an estimate of when repairs will be finished and power restored in their area.
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.
FPL’s goals for providing service restoration information are as follows:
- As soon as practical, 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/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, FPL’s website (www.FPL.com), FPL’s Mobile Storm Center (mobile.FPL.com), Twitter (www.twitter.com/insideFPL), Facebook (www.facebook.com/FPLconnect), YouTube (www.youtube.com/FPL) and FPL’s blog (www.FPLblog.com) for updated restoration expectations and other progress reports.
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, located at FPL’s Physical Distribution Center in Riviera Beach, provides support to the staging sites, securing services, materials, food, water and housing
Storm Season 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 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 up 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.
- Record your FPL account number and FPL’s phone number (1-800-4-OUTAGE) in your mobile phone or another 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 someone in your home is dependent on electric-powered, life-sustaining medical equipment, review your family emergency plan for back-up power or make arrangements to relocate when a storm warning is issued.
- If you plan to use a ladder while preparing your home for the storm, look up and note the location of power lines before you begin. Be sure that ladders or scaffolds are far enough away so that you – and the ends of the tools you’re using – don’t come within 10 feet of power lines. Before lowering a TV antenna or satellite dish, make sure to turn off and unplug the TV, and avoid power lines.
- If you plan to operate a portable generator in the event of a power 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.
After a Storm: When to Call
Following a severe 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.
FPL asks customers to help the company keep the phone lines open for emergencies by calling 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 (1-800-468-8243) 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 is the largest electric utility in Florida and one of the largest rate-regulated utilities in the United States. FPL serves 4.5 million customer accounts in Florida and is a leading employer in the state with approximately 10,000 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 NextEra Energy, Inc. (NYSE: NEE). For more information, visit www.FPL.com.