With the 2009 hurricane season almost here, Florida Power & Light Company today conducted the final exercise in its annual, company-wide preparations for emergency response and restoration in the event that severe storms make landfall in FPL’s service territory.

While almost three and a half years have passed since a major hurricane inflicted significant damage on the state, FPL continues to take storm season preparation extremely seriously, working to advance its restoration capabilities and continuously investing in improvements to the reliability and resiliency of our infrastructure.

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 our service territory. A key annual component of FPL’s constant preparation for a real storm, the hurricane “dry run” serves as the company’s final major milestone event in advance of the June 1 start of hurricane season.

“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 has a plan of action, and we train rigorously so we are prepared to implement that plan during storm season,” said Irene White, FPL’s director of customer support. “If a hurricane strikes, FPL will be on the job around the clock to restore service as quickly as possible after the storm to each and every one of our customers.”

FPL Responds to Virtual Hurricane Alpha

Employees from across the company participated in the dry run to practice the company’s emergency plan, which includes tracking outages, assessing damage, communicating with customers and employees and initiating the service restoration plan. 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, “Alpha,” was a storm that formed in the Atlantic and made landfall in South Florida near the Broward-Miami-Dade County line as a strong Category 2. The storm moved east to west across the state before exiting near Long Boat Key into the Gulf of Mexico. Shortly after Alpha’s exit, another storm, Hurricane Bravo, threatened the Alabama and Northwest Florida coastal region. Despite being outside FPL’s service area, the second storm created the additional challenge of reduced restoration resources as backup crews were diverted.

To make the exercise as real as possible, FPL computers generated damage estimates for the fictional scenario. These estimates were based on scientific modeling, which 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.

Pre-Storm Preparations

FPL works year-round to prepare for hurricane season, conducting extensive training to prepare its employees to respond safely and as quickly as possible if a hurricane strikes our service territory and working with suppliers to stock up on poles, wires and other electrical equipment that might be needed in the event of a storm.

FPL reviews its inventory of lodging and food vendors that are called upon to house and feed the thousands of men and women who contribute to a restoration effort that can last weeks. The company coordinates assistance agreements with other utilities for out-of-state support and secures staging sites throughout its 35-county service area in advance, enabling the company to rapidly deploy equipment and crews to storm-damaged communities.

In addition, FPL works closely with emergency operations officials throughout the state to update information on infrastructure and facilities that are critical to the community, such as hospitals, police, fire, communications, water treatment plants and transportation providers.

The company also conducts extensive vegetation clearing, pole inspections and other infrastructure work as part of a comprehensive, multi-year program to increase the resilience of the electrical system so it can better withstand the high winds experienced in specific areas.

Restoration Process

When outages occur, FPL knows its customers and their families want and need information about when their power will be restored so they can plan. After a major storm, FPL works to restore power as soon as it is safe to begin and provides its best estimates of when service will be restored.

Immediately following a storm, FPL deploys field teams to conduct neighborhood-by-neighborhood 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 will be restored in their area.

Restoration work is not based on when a customer calls to report an outage, where someone lives or the status of an account. Instead, FPL follows a process that restores power to the largest number of customers first while taking into consideration the welfare and urgent needs of communities:

  • FPL initiates the restoration process by repairing 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.
  • 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 priority community services.
  • This is followed by the next largest number of customers until crews converge in the hardest hit areas.

In 2009, FPL will aim to provide the public with restoration information in the following timeframes, depending on the severity of a storm:

  • 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 a storm, based on the information available at the time, FPL will provide an initial estimate of how long it will take for the entire restoration to be completed.
  • Within 48 hours, FPL will provide restoration information on a county-by-county basis.
  • Within 72 to 96 hours, FPL will work to provide information on a sub-county level.

As the restoration gets under way following a storm, customers are advised to monitor local media and www.FPL.com for specific reports on progress assessing and repairing damage to the electric system in their areas.

FPL’s Storm Restoration Organization

  • Area Command Center – From this location, FPL manages the restoration efforts throughout its 35-county service area to get the power back on for its customers. The Area Command Center provides instruction to personnel at staging sites and service centers on the best plan for restoring power to 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. 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.