With the 2012 hurricane season just weeks away, Florida Power & Light Co.'s annual, week-long hurricane drill begins today, and continues through Friday, May 11. Employees from across the company will participate in the company-wide emergency response and restoration drill.
The drill is taking place at the company's Physical Distribution Center and new CAT 5-hardened FPL Command Center located in Palm Beach County. As part of the drill, employees will respond to Marina, a virtual Category 3 hurricane, which is expected to make landfall near Lantana, Florida.
"Our employees have two jobs – their regular job and their storm job. This week during our storm drill they will be practicing the company's emergency response plan," said Eric Silagy, president of FPL. "Our storm plan focuses on readiness, restoration and recovery. If a hurricane strikes our service territory, FPL will work around the clock to restore service safely and as quickly as possible to each and every one of our customers."
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 forecasting models built from years of storm data.
"We have continued to invest to strengthen the resiliency of the electrical system but no utility is hurricane proof," said Silagy. "Hurricanes are powerful forces of nature that can cause significant damage and widespread electricity outages. FPL has a well-developed plan for storm restoration. We train rigorously and we are prepared."
The last major hurricane to devastate Florida was in October 2005. Since that time there are over 1.2 million more people living in the state and FPL has approximately 230,000 more customers.
"FPL urges its customers to develop a plan to weather the storm, or evacuate if necessary, and be prepared to deal with the potential of power outages. Those customers who have moved to Florida since 2005, and who therefore have not personally experienced a hurricane in our state, are especially encouraged to plan for severe weather," added Silagy. "Although a lower-than-average storm season is predicted this year, it only takes one storm to cause major devastation."
FPL prepares year round for hurricane season, conducting extensive training for employees. FPL also coordinates assistance agreements with other utilities for out-of-state support, orders restoration equipment and supplies 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 critical facilities that are vital to the community, such as hospitals, police and fire stations, 911 communication facilities, water treatment plants and transportation providers.
In advance of a storm making landfall, FPL activates its emergency response plan to ensure the company can hit the ground running when the electric infrastructure is damaged by a storm. The company's community-focused restoration process is concentrated on restoring power to the most critical functions first, and then to the most people in the shortest time possible for maximum benefit to the community. Customers should be aware that restoration efforts in the wake of a damaging storm can be lengthy.