JUNO BEACH, Fla. -- Florida Power & Light Company is prepared for another potentially active hurricane season under pandemic conditions – and reminds customers to prepare as well.
Preparing for hurricane season is a year-round process for FPL, including an annual intensive weeklong drill involving more than 3,000 employees. This year’s “dry run” exercise, conducted May 3-7, tested employee response to a simulated two-landfall hurricane with Gulf Power, which serves Northwest Florida and is now part of FPL. The drill was conducted while employing safety measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We know that in Florida it’s not a question of if a hurricane will impact us, but when and where,” said Eric Silagy, president and CEO of FPL. “Regardless of the forecast, Floridians know that it only takes one storm to upend our communities. That’s why we continuously prepare, make improvements, leverage technology and sharpen our team’s skills so we can most effectively serve our customers when they need us most. The pandemic and other challenges do not change our steadfast commitment to restore power safely and as quickly as possible.”
To allow the company to safely deliver the reliable energy customers expect, FPL continues to execute its robust pandemic plan. Those safety measures are incorporated throughout the company’s hurricane response planning.
Safety measures amid COVID-19 pandemic
FPL and Gulf Power worked together on four named storms last year under pandemic conditions, responding safely and effectively while following precautions to protect customers and restoration workers. FPL also followed pandemic protocols last year while providing mutual assistance four times for hurricanes directly impacting other utilities outside Florida.
Pandemic safeguards continue to be part of FPL’s 2021 hurricane response plan, including adaptations based on lessons learned in 2020.
Precautionary measures adopted by FPL include daily health screenings for restoration personnel and adjusting the layout of staging sites to allow for social distancing; reducing the number of personnel per site; and adding more micro-staging sites.
FPL also has assigned back-up staffing and alternate locations for all critical functions, including command and control centers, which coordinate storm response and grid operations.
Preparations include continuous improvements to energy grid
In addition to training its people to respond to storms, 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 made significant investments to upgrade the grid, in addition to ongoing maintenance and improvement work, to enhance reliability in good weather and bad. This includes:
- Hardening, or strengthening, nearly all main power lines serving critical community facilities and services, such as police and fire stations, hospitals and 911 centers. In addition to being more storm-resilient, main power lines that have been hardened perform 50% better in day-to-day operations than those that are not hardened, which means fewer outages.
- Installing more than 155,000 intelligent devices along the 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.
- Inspecting about 150,000 power poles annually and upgrading or replacing those that no longer meet FPL’s standards for strength. This schedule means that each of the 1.4 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 all feeders, or main power lines, or place them underground by 2024.
- Finding cost-effective ways to replace overhead power lines with more reliable underground lines through the Storm Secure Underground Pilot Program, which has completed more than 250 projects in neighborhoods with a history of past outage issues caused by trees and other vegetation blowing into overhead power lines.
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 reminds its customers to also be prepared.
“We all have a fundamental responsibility as Floridians to be prepared for hurricane season,” Silagy said. “Now – before a storm has even formed, let alone threatens our state – is the time to prepare. Waiting until a meteorologist forecasts a storm’s impact is imminent is simply too late to be effective.”
FPL advises that customers’ hurricane plans, like FPL’s, should consider the pandemic – and anticipate that a direct strike by a major hurricane could damage the energy grid, causing customers to be without power for an extended period.
The company provides information to help customers 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 hurricane strikes, FPL will provide updated restoration time estimates and other progress reports in the locations listed below:
Editor’s note: B-roll of FPL hurricane restoration, hardening, undergrounding and smart grid innovations is available here:
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 for the fifth time in the last six years. The company was recognized in 2021 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 2020 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.