JUNO BEACH, Fla. – Florida Power & Light Company (FPL) conducted its annual Storm Dry Run event May 3-7, an intensive weeklong session of hurricane restoration drills involving more than 3,000 employees responding to a hypothetical hurricane amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The annual drill included joint operations and collaboration with Gulf Power, which serves northwest Florida and officially became part of FPL earlier this year. The drill provided a comprehensive platform to refine operational efficiencies that FPL achieved in 2020 amid restoration efforts in the early days of the pandemic.
“Not only was last year an historic hurricane season with 30 named storms, but the challenges presented by the pandemic necessitated that we re-evaluate our restoration processes and procedures,” said Eric Silagy, president and CEO of FPL. “We are pleased to report that restoration times were not adversely affected through the duration of last season. Our annual hurricane drill serves as our commitment to push ourselves and improve upon our procedures when responding to a natural disaster – this is more important than ever during the pandemic.”
While FPL’s proven restoration strategy for getting the lights back on safely and as quickly as possible after a hurricane has not changed, its approach has.
FPL requires its entire restoration workforce to undergo daily health screenings before going to work to restore power after a hurricane. The company also has dramatically altered the layout of staging sites to account for social distancing and limited interaction. While staging sites of previous years sometimes resembled small cities with upwards of 2,500 responders per site during major hurricanes, FPL has greatly expanded its use of smaller, micro-staging sites.
“We have found that multiple, smaller sites closer to impacted areas have made us even more nimble and efficient,” said Manny Miranda, FPL’s senior vice president of power delivery. “Microsites are also more valuable during the pandemic era, when physical spacing is a must.”
Precautions FPL continues to take 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 necessary, having employees work remotely.
Preparations include continuous improvements to energy grid
In addition to further refining storm restoration processes and procedures necessary during COVID-19, 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 more than $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. More than 60% of all feeders, or main power lines, are hardened or underground.
- Installing more than 5 million smart meters and more than 155,000 intelligent devices along the energy grid using advanced technology that helps detect problems and restore service faster if outages occur.
- Proactively reviewing about 15,000 miles of power lines each year and trimming and removing vegetation where necessary to keep lines clear and help prevent outages.
- Continuing a second eight-year inspection cycle of the company’s 1.2 million power poles and upgrading or replacing those that no longer meet FPL's standards for strength (approximately 150,000 poles inspected annually).
- 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 either wood or 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 2020 ReliabilityOne™ National Reliability Excellence Award presented by PA Consulting. It was the fifth time in six years that the company received the national award for providing superior service reliability to the more than 11 million Floridians that FPL serves.
Customers urged to connect with FPL
While investments in building a stronger and smarter energy grid demonstrate FPL’s ongoing preparations for hurricanes and severe weather, 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, especially during the pandemic.
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 listed in the locations below to help customers prepare and develop their own hurricane plans:
Florida Power & Light Company
Florida Power & Light Company is the largest energy company in the U.S. as measured by retail electricity produced and sold. The company serves more than 5.6 million customer accounts supporting more than 11 million residents across Florida with clean, reliable and affordable electricity. FPL operates one of the cleanest power generation fleets in the U.S. and in 2020 won the ReliabilityOne® National Reliability Excellence Award, presented by PA Consulting, for the fifth time in the last six years. The company was recognized in 2020 as one of the most trusted U.S. electric utilities by Escalent for the seventh consecutive year. 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 2021 list of "World's Most Admired Companies." NextEra Energy is also the parent company of 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.NextEraEnergyResources.com.