JUNO BEACH, Fla. -- Florida Power & Light Company (FPL) this week conducted an intensive drill to test more than 3,000 employees as they responded to a simulated Category 1 hurricane in the middle of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The company deliberately delayed the storm drill, which traditionally occurs in early May, to specifically train under these new circumstances.
The simulated storm, Hurricane Clyde, made landfall near Naples as a Category 1 hurricane before moving northward across the Gulf of Mexico and making a second landfall near Pensacola. The damaging and dangerous storm spawned tornadoes and micro-bursts and left widespread vegetation debris across South Florida and southwest Florida, leaving approximately 1.1 million customers in the dark across FPL’s service territory.
Employees responded to a number of hypothetical challenges that may occur during a hurricane restoration, including tornadoes damaging power plants and a port, toppled trees blocking access to roads and key facilities, and challenges with bringing out-of-state crews to support the restoration due to COVID-19 concerns and government restrictions. The drill also tested the use of Alpha and Bravo employee teams in separate locations to reduce the chance of a COVID-19 infection disrupting the restoration oversight and coordination process.
In addition, FPL brought in several vendors who have supplied resources during previous storms to walk them through the company’s new footprint, use of technology and give them an opportunity to get acclimated with the company’s pandemic storm plan.
The week-long drill comes on the heels of a complex processing and staging site drill at the St. Lucie County Fairgrounds that incorporated pandemic preparations. Processing sites are the locations where out-of-state crews check in with FPL and are given an orientation of our restoration process and the areas they will pre-stage before or work after a storm. Staging sites are a critical component to FPL’s comprehensive storm plan. They are like miniature cities with lodging, parking, tools and electrical supplies, as well as food and showers for out-of-state crews who assist FPL with restoration. During the staging site drill, FPL studied various social-distancing practices and completed detailed time studies for different methods of conducting daily temperature screenings to determine the most effective way to check thousands of restoration personnel before they go to work. The company is taking extra steps and deploying state-of-the-art technology to ensure the safety of crews and customers by altering the layout and safety features of staging sites this season to account for social distancing and limited interaction. FPL will also expand its use of smaller, micro-staging sites.
“While responding to a hurricane during this global pandemic will undoubtedly present us with extraordinary challenges, FPL refuses to simply accept them at face value. It’s why we’ve spent the last two weeks drilling and challenging our teams to test their assumptions to find ways to increase productivity and efficiencies to better serve our customers, all while never sacrificing safety,” said FPL President and CEO Eric Silagy. “As evident by the fact that our system operated on all cylinders even as we broke an all-time record for peak daily energy usage this week, we’re working tirelessly to be there for customers during a time when reliable, uninterrupted electricity is needed more than ever. This will only be amplified if we are dealt a hurricane amid COVID-19 and we continue to do everything we can to ensure we’re in the best possible position to be there for customers when they need us most.”
These drills are critical components of FPL's extensive year-round training to ensure employees are ready to respond to severe weather.
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. Safety is, and has always been, at the core of FPL’s culture. The company continues to adjust its corporate pandemic plan to ensure the well-being of its employees, contractors and the communities it serves.
“While we are committed to restoring power to customers as quickly as possible following a hurricane, I am not willing to sacrifice safety for speed,” Silagy said. “The No. 1 priority of every employee and contractor working to restore power is to return home safely to loved ones. This has always been at the core of our hurricane response and it remains at the heart of everything we do this hurricane season.”
Customers urged to prepare, connect with FPL
FPL urges its customers to act now and prepare for hurricane season, 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.