JUNO BEACH, Fla. -- Florida Power & Light Company is taking its preparations to a new level as the 2020 hurricane season begins, factoring the global coronavirus pandemic into all its planning – and urging customers to do the same.
Preparing for hurricane season is a year-round process for FPL and the company will hold its annual dry run exercise for more than 3,000 employees June 22-26. This year’s intensive drill will test employee response to a simulated hurricane while employing safety measures in response to the ongoing pandemic. In addition to the annual drill, FPL will test its new pandemic safety procedures for restoration crews in an exercise at a staging site during the week of June 15.
“FPL and many of our customers have been through storms together, but this year is like no other,” said FPL President and CEO Eric Silagy. “We face the real and daunting prospect of staring down something none of us has ever had to deal with: a hurricane and a global pandemic at the same time. While the circumstances have changed, FPL’s steadfast commitment to restoring power safely and as quickly as possible has not.”
Since the early days of the health crisis, FPL has executed a robust pandemic plan that has allowed the company to continue to safely deliver the reliable, affordable energy its customers expect.
New safety measures amid pandemic
FPL’s proven restoration strategy for getting the lights back on safely and as quickly as possible after a hurricane has not changed, but its approach has. The restoration process has been expanded this year to add new safety measures to help protect customers and FPL personnel from COVID-19.
For example, FPL will require its entire restoration workforce to undergo daily health screenings before going to work to restore power after a hurricane. FPL is altering the layout of staging sites – which are like miniature cities with lodging, parking, food, showers and laundry for out-of-state crews who assist FPL with restoration – to account for social distancing and limited interaction. FPL will also expand its use of smaller, micro-staging sites.
For Hurricane Irma in 2017, FPL assembled a restoration workforce of 28,000, including utility workers from 30 states and Canada. Given the current travel restrictions and guidance from health officials, FPL may not be able to put together a restoration workforce of that size, if needed. With a smaller workforce and pandemic safety precautions in place, it could take more time to restore power after a hurricane.
That’s why FPL is asking customers for their patience if severe weather strikes during the pandemic. FPL’s commitment to work around the clock to restore everyone’s power will not change, but it could take longer to do so under these extraordinary circumstances.
Precautions FPL is taking to ensure employees and customers stay safe during the restoration process include:
- Incorporating social distancing wherever possible, appropriate personal protective equipment and other health and safety measures as an integral part of storm response planning.
- Providing masks and sanitizing materials to crews, such as hand sanitizer, disinfectant spray and wipes.
- Implementing extensive cleaning and sanitization measures at staging sites and command centers to protect personnel supporting the restoration effort.
- Administering screening and temperature checks at all staging sites and corporate facilities, as well as testing employees in critical functions.
- Minimizing the movement of crews. As much as possible, FPL will keep the same crews assigned to the same work areas.
- Minimizing crews entering customers’ homes and businesses.
- Assigning back-up staffing and alternate locations for all critical functions, including command and control centers, which coordinate storm response and grid operations.
- Where possible, having employees work remotely.
Preparations include continuous improvements to energy grid
In addition to training its personnel to respond to a storm event, FPL prepares for hurricanes and severe weather by continuously improving the energy grid to make it stronger, smarter and more storm-resilient.
Since 2006, FPL has invested over $5 billion, in addition to ongoing maintenance and improvement work, to upgrade the energy grid and enhance reliability for customers in good weather and bad. This includes:
- Hardening nearly all main power lines serving critical community facilities and services, such as police and fire stations, hospitals and 911 centers.
- Installing more than 5 million smart meters and more than 120,000 intelligent devices along the energy grid using advanced technology that helps detect problems and restore service faster if outages occur.
- Inspecting about 15,000 miles of power lines each year and trimming and removing vegetation where necessary to keep lines clear and help prevent outages.
- Inspecting about 150,000 power poles each year and upgrading or replacing those that no longer meet FPL’s standards for strength. This schedule means that each of the 1.2 million poles in FPL’s distribution system is inspected every eight years.
- Remaining on target to replace all wooden transmission structures with steel or concrete by 2022 and to harden or place underground all feeders, or main power lines, by 2024.
- Finding cost-effective ways to replace overhead power lines with more reliable underground lines in select neighborhoods through the three-year Storm Secure Underground Program pilot.
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% better in day-to-day operations than those power lines that are not hardened, which means fewer outages experienced by customers.
FPL’s hardening efforts, along with the use of smart grid technology, benefit customers year-round with award-winning service reliability. The company had its best year ever for reliability last year and won the 2019 ReliabilityOne™ National Reliability Excellence Award presented by PA Consulting. It was the fourth time in five years that the company received the national award for providing superior service reliability to the more than 10 million Floridians that FPL serves.
Customers urged to prepare, connect with FPL
While investments in building a stronger and smarter energy grid demonstrate FPL’s ongoing preparations for hurricanes and severe weather, FPL urges its customers to prepare as well, especially during the pandemic.
Customers’ hurricane plans, like FPL’s, should consider the current pandemic and anticipate that a direct strike by a major hurricane could damage the energy grid, causing residents and businesses to be without power for an extended period.
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:
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% lower than the latest national average and among the lowest in the U.S. FPL’s service reliability is better than 99.98%, and its highly fuel-efficient power plant fleet is one of the cleanest among all electric companies nationwide. The company was recognized in 2019 as one of the most trusted U.S. electric utilities by Escalent for the sixth consecutive year. A leading Florida employer with approximately 8,900 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 2020 list of “World’s Most Admired Companies.” NextEra Energy is also the parent company of Gulf Power Company, which serves more than 470,000 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.