By Manny Miranda
There’s an old saying that Mother Nature is the great equalizer, and as hurricane season approaches, one word continues to be on the collective mind of each of our nearly 9,000 employees at Florida Power & Light Company: preparedness.
We recently completed our annual Storm Dry Run, a weeklong session of intense restoration drills and training, to make sure our teams are prepared for the challenges that come with a hurricane season during a pandemic. Our goal: to be ready to restore power safely and as quickly as possible in the event of a weather-related outage.
The energy business can be a humbling one at times, and continuous improvement, preparedness and safety are deeply embedded in FPL’s DNA. It’s simply what we do.
Since 1925, our team has become hurricane-hardened just as we have hardened our critical infrastructure and energy grid. After nearly a century of real-life experience in one of the world’s most demanding weather environments, we know that uncompromising preparation across all facets of our organization is the key to effectively dealing with hurricanes.
Here are just a few recent findings and points of continuous improvement we have put in place:
- The pandemic certainly provided additional challenges last year, yet it made us better at preparing and doing what we do. After implementing COVID-19 protocols in 2020, we upheld efficiencies and saw no adverse impacts in restoration times during what was an incredibly active season.
- We are building on what we learned. COVID-19 served as an important backdrop during our Storm Dry Run event, as we further refined processes and procedures necessary during the pandemic while ensuring that our employees, external workforce and customers remained safe. Likewise, great attention was placed on joint drilling and collaboration with Gulf Power, which officially became part of FPL earlier this year.
- Our equipment and materials inventory is critical to being prepared. Doing so ensures our service territory is well equipped to handle any event, and it allows us to help our friends and neighbors in their times of need. Louisiana, for example, was the unfortunate target of a state-record five hurricanes last year. Because of our increased material reserves, we were able to supply not only crucial manpower through mutual assistance, but also vital equipment, including transmission structures, to replace those damaged in the weather.
- Finally, we continue to evolve how we stage crews prior to a storm’s arrival. Increasingly since Hurricane Matthew in 2016, we are establishing multiple, agile microsites instead of large staging areas. We have found that multiple, smaller sites closer to impacted areas have made us more nimble and efficient. Microsites are even more valuable during the COVID-19 era, when physical spacing is a must.
Mother Nature may be a great equalizer and we will always be mindful of its power and ability to cause destruction — but our proven history and experience keeping the lights on in the world’s worst weather is second to none. Every storm is different and presents its own unique challenges, but customers can be confident that the best team in the business is prepared to respond for you when times get tough.
Manny Miranda is the Senior Vice President of Power Delivery at Florida Power & Light Company.