With both the devastation from Super Storm Sandy still fresh in people's minds and hurricane season fast approaching, Florida Power & Light Co. this week began its annual, weeklong hurricane drill in Palm Beach County. Employees began responding to Virtual Hurricane Sheryl – a Category 3 Storm – to test FPL's hurricane readiness, restoration and recovery.
Thousands of employees from across FPL are participating in the annual emergency response and restoration drill, which continues through Friday, May 3. The company-wide drill is centered at FPL's Physical Distribution Center and Category 5 Command Center located in Riviera Beach, Florida, and taking place at FPL service centers and other facilities throughout the state.
"Sandy was a clear reminder of our duty to keep looking for ways to make our infrastructure stronger and to keep getting better at restoring power after a major storm hits," said FPL President Eric Silagy. "Even though we haven't had a direct hit from a hurricane in nearly eight years, we have had to respond to a number of storms. That's why we test our storm plan so vigorously and are preparing for a storm every day there is not one."
Virtual Hurricane Sheryl
As part of this year's drill, employees are responding to Sheryl, a virtual Category 3 hurricane expected to make landfall near Cape Coral, Fla. The "virtual" storm will make landfall on Wednesday, May 1, and cross the state before exiting near Port St. Lucie that night. Starting May 2, the drill's focus will shift to post-storm restoration. The last two days of the drill will simulate post-storm restoration activities. The added emphasis on post-storm activities is a result of what utilities faced in the aftermath of Sandy and will include how we work with out-of-state crews and flooding.
During the simulation, employees will track outages, assess damage, communicate with customers and employees and initiate service restoration. They will also test the company's storm plans and tactics, and apply lessons learned from previous hurricanes and other extreme weather events. Additionally, to make this simulation as real as possible, FPL will generate damage estimates for the fictional scenario based on scientific computer models the company has built from decades of storm data.
"Having a well-thought hurricane plan is important for all of us who live in Florida," Silagy said. "We want our customers to be prepared for hurricane season and be thinking now about any adjustments they would have to make if they experience extended power outages after a storm."
Year-Round and Pre-Season Preparations
FPL prepares throughout the year for hurricane season, conducting extensive training for employees. In fact, thousands of FPL employees have storm assignments in addition to their regular positions. As part of its storm preparation plan, 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.
Since 2006, FPL has invested more than $1 billion to strengthen the electric infrastructure serving facilities that are critical to communities. FPL works closely with emergency operations officials to update the lists of these facilities, which include hospitals, police and fire stations, 911 communication facilities, water treatment plants, County Emergency Operations Centers and transportation providers.
As a Storm Approaches
In advance of a storm making landfall, FPL activates its emergency response plan to prepare for potential damage to the electric infrastructure, which can be caused by high winds, lightning, flooding, storm surge, blowing debris or falling trees. These conditions can affect both overhead and underground power lines, and customers should be aware that restoring power after a damaging storm can be lengthy.
FPL's community-focused restoration process concentrates on restoring power to the most critical functions first, such as hospitals, police and fire stations, and 911 centers, and then to the most people in the shortest time possible for maximum benefit to the community.
After a Storm
If a storm strikes, FPL will provide updated restoration time estimates and other progress reports on its website: ( www.FPL.com/storm ), Twitter ( www.twitter.com/insideFPL ), Facebook ( www.facebook.com/FPLconnect ), YouTube ( www.youtube.com/FPL ), FPL's blog ( www.FPLblog.com ) and FPL's Power Tracker ( www.FPL.com/powertracker ).