JUNO BEACH, Fla. – Florida Power & Light Company (FPL) today tested the response of more than 3,000 employees to a hypothetical hurricane with similar characteristics to that of a more than 100-year-old hurricane that made landfall in two parts of the state. FPL’s annual hurricane drill, which included local first responders, provided an opportunity to demonstrate how the company continuously improves its efforts, and is “ready to respond together” with its partners and return life to normal for millions of Floridians in their greatest time of need.
“In Florida, it is not a matter of if, but when a hurricane will impact a portion of our state, as we saw with last year’s devastating Hurricane Michael,” said Eric Silagy, president and CEO of FPL. “While we may not know exactly when and where a hurricane will strike, we know that we must always be prepared to restore power to Floridians or others who need us. Every year, our drill is a commitment to push ourselves and improve upon our procedures when responding to a natural disaster.”
During the drill, FPL staff coordinated its efforts at its Command Center in Riviera Beach, Fla. Located next to the Command Center is the new Distribution Control Center, a state-of-the-art, Category 5-rated building that enhances FPL’s abilities to respond to natural disasters, as well as efficiently monitors thousands of smart devices and other equipment 24/7 to reduce outages when they occur.
In addition to the Distribution Control Center, the company completed the following last year:
- Built 12 hardened service centers throughout the state, which will help the company pre-stage equipment and more than 1,000 personnel to restore power safely and quickly once a hurricane passes
- Improved and tested its communication systems to ensure the company can provide efficient and accurate information when power will be restored to customers by capitalizing on smart grid technology
- Provided customers an opportunity to directly report to the company when they see a downed power line, which will speed efforts to restore power
This weeklong drill is a critical component of FPL's extensive year-round training to ensure employees are ready to respond when their customers need them the most.
As part of the exercise, the hypothetical Hurricane Haley, which mimicked 1903’s Hurricane 3, first made landfall in Miami-Dade County on May 2 as a Category 1 hurricane. The storm then exited the west coast, steered north through the Gulf of Mexico and made a second landfall in the Pensacola area. During the simulated exercise, FPL employees were evaluated on their response and restoration efforts in regards to operations, logistics, communications and customer service, among other areas.
“While much of FPL’s service area was spared the catastrophic effects of last year’s Hurricane Michael, we are always making improvements to our system to make it ready for day-to-day operations and for whatever Mother Nature throws our way,” said Manny Miranda, senior vice president of power delivery for FPL. “In addition, our crews were part of an active 2018 hurricane season that took them throughout the Southeast and elsewhere to help our fellow citizens in need.”
Last year, FPL crews assisted in restoring power to:
- Residents of Puerto Rico, still reeling from the effects of 2017’s Hurricane Maria
- The Carolinas after Hurricane Florence
- Parts of Florida’s Panhandle and southern Georgia after Hurricane Michael
- Northern California in the aftermath of the Camp Fire
FPL is often called upon to assist other energy companies after a natural disaster due to the preparation the company’s crews go through in advance of storm season and their response to past storms, including Hurricane Irma. FPL participates in mutual assistance programs with other energy companies from across the nation. Companies from outside Florida have sent crews to help Floridians after major storms. In 2017, FPL’s storm restoration workforce of 28,000, which included nearly 20,000 workers from 30 states and Canada, played a critical role in the record setting restoration of more than 4.4 million customers following Hurricane Irma.
More than a decade of investments helps restore customers’ service faster, more efficiently
Since 2006, FPL has invested nearly $4 billion to strengthen its energy grid, which has improved reliability in day-to-day operations and during hurricane season. These investments minimized damage and sped restoration efforts during 2016’s Hurricane Matthew and 2017’s Hurricane Irma, as well as improved overall service to customers. These investments include:
- Hardening or undergrounding 98 percent of main power lines serving critical community functions and services, such as police and fire stations, hospitals, ports and 911 centers
- Clearing trees and vegetation – a major cause of power outages – from more than 15,000 miles of power lines each year, which is equivalent to a round trip flight from Miami to Tokyo
- Inspecting all of the company’s 1.2 million distribution power poles within an eight-year cycle, and upgrading or replacing those that no longer meet FPL's industry leading standards for strength (approximately 150,000 poles inspected annually)
- Installing more than 5 million smart meters and more than 110,000 intelligent devices to help predict, reduce and prevent power outages, and restore power faster if outages occur
- Replacing transmission structures (currently 93 percent are concrete or steel)
The company also announced its plans in March to continue hardening the energy grid over the next three years by additionally investing approximately $2 billion, which includes hardening its main power lines and replacing all remaining wooden transmission structures. By the end of 2022, FPL expects that all of its transmission structures will be steel or concrete. By the end of 2024, the company expects to have hardened or placed underground all main power lines within its distribution system, including those serving critical and key community facilities.
Hardening means that FPL is upgrading the energy grid to meet national standards for extreme wind conditions throughout the company’s service area, which includes installing power poles that can be a combination of wood and concrete. Hardening also includes shortening the span between poles by installing additional poles and possibly placing some sections of power lines underground.
In addition to being more storm resilient, hardened power lines perform 40 percent better in day-to-day operations than those power lines that are not hardened, which means fewer outages experienced by customers.
How to connect with FPL during a storm
While investments in building a stronger and smarter energy grid demonstrated benefits to customers during Hurricane Irma and past hurricanes, FPL reminds its customers that every storm is different, along with the damage that comes with it, and urges them to prepare for the upcoming hurricane season.
Throughout the year, the company provides information to customers to help them prepare for hurricane season and communicates with them after a severe weather event. FPL.com/storm features checklists and other information to help customers prepare and develop their own hurricane plans. When a real hurricane strikes, FPL will provide updated restoration time estimates and other progress reports in the locations listed below:
NOTE TO EDITORS: For additional information on FPL's hurricane readiness and high-definition photos and b-roll, please call the FPL Media Line at 561-694-4442, or visit the digital library of FPL's Newsroom (www.FPL.com/Newsroom).
B-roll of FPL’s substation robot, drone footage, Hurricane Irma restoration and last year’s storm drill – https://fpl.sharefile.com/d-s856a00e472040b0b
Florida Power & Light Company
Florida Power & Light Company is the largest energy company in the United States as measured by retail electricity produced and sold, serving more than 5 million customer accounts or an estimated 10 million+ people across the state of Florida. FPL’s typical 1,000-kWh residential customer bill is approximately 30 percent lower than the latest national average and among the lowest in the U.S. FPL’s service reliability is better than 99.98 percent, and its highly fuel-efficient power plant fleet is one of the cleanest among all electric companies nationwide. The company was recognized in 2018 as one of the most trusted U.S. electric utilities by Market Strategies International for the fifth consecutive year. A leading Florida employer with approximately 8,700 employees, FPL is a subsidiary of Juno Beach, Florida-based NextEra Energy, Inc. (NYSE: NEE), a clean energy company widely recognized for its efforts in sustainability, ethics and diversity, and has been ranked No. 1 in the electric and gas utilities industry in Fortune’s 2019 list of “World’s Most Admired Companies.” NextEra Energy is also the parent company of Gulf Power Company, which serves more than 460,000 customers in eight counties throughout Northwest Florida, and NextEra Energy Resources, LLC, which, together with its affiliated entities, is the world’s largest generator of renewable energy from the wind and sun and a world leader in battery storage. For more information about NextEra Energy companies, visit these websites: www.NextEraEnergy.com, www.FPL.com, www.GulfPower.com, www.NextEraEnergyResources.com.