Florida Power & Light Co. (FPL) on May 2 announced that the company has initiated a first-of-a-kind partnership with the Florida National Guard to enhance both organizations’ responses to natural and man-made disasters with a particular focus on severe storms, including hurricanes.
Key to the partnership will be the embedding for six months of a Florida National Guardsman within FPL’s emergency preparedness organization.
“We are extremely excited to announce this unique partnership with the Florida National Guard and its 12,000 citizen soldiers and airmen — the first of its kind in the nation,” said Eric Silagy, president of FPL. “This new partnership will allow FPL to leverage the Florida Guard’s considerable logistics and operational expertise gained through its recent deployments here and around the world. At the same time, the Florida National Guard will gain a better appreciation for how FPL conducts its business, particularly during times of large-scale power restoration. There’s no question in my mind that this innovative partnership can and will serve as a model for other National Guard units and utilities throughout the nation.”
The idea behind the partnership began late last year during a meeting among senior FPL officials and Florida National Guard staff officers, including Silagy and Maj. Gen. Emmett R. Titshaw Jr., the adjutant general of the Florida National Guard.
“This innovative partnership is exactly the type of out-of-the-box thinking that needs to take place to ensure we are as well-positioned as possible to respond to the needs of Florida’s citizens when disaster strikes,” Titshaw said. “The Florida National Guard brings to the table an immense portfolio of real-world deployment and operational experience. Now, we have an opportunity to put that expertise to work here at home, allowing for knowledge-sharing and relationship-building with our disaster relief partners, all with a focus on preparation, response and recovery.”
2004 Hurricane Anniversary — A Reminder to Continue Grid Improvements
The partnership announcement took place against the backdrop of FPL’s annual storm drill. More than 3,500 FPL employees participated at FPL’s Command Center in Riviera Beach and at service centers and other facilities throughout the company’s 35-county service area. Employees responded to Hurricane Echo — a virtual Category 3 storm — to test FPL’s hurricane readiness, restoration and recovery plan.
Silagy said FPL storm resilience is better than ever before.
“Ten years ago, Hurricanes Charley, Frances and Jeanne devastated parts of our state and challenged our restoration efforts,” Silagy said. “Since that time, FPL has invested well over a billion dollars to strengthen our system and make it more resilient to Florida’s extreme weather. While it’s been nine years since a hurricane impacted FPL and its customers, none of us can afford to be complacent. That’s why we vigorously test our storm plan and prepare for severe storms each and every day. I strongly encourage our customers to do their part and take the time now to prepare, well before the heart of hurricane season.”
Since the devastating storms in 2004, FPL has invested more than $1.4 billion to strengthen the electric grid to better withstand severe weather, help restore service faster after outages and improve everyday service reliability for 4.7 million customers, including:
- Strengthening more than 450 main power lines that serve critical community facilities such as hospitals, police and fire stations and emergency communication systems;
- Clearing vegetation — a major cause of power outages — from more than 100,000 miles of power lines;
- Inspecting all power poles — more than 1 million — and upgrading or replacing those that no longer meet strength standards; and
- Installing 4.6 million smart meters and 10,000 intelligent devices using cutting-edge technologies that help detect and restore service faster when outages occur.
Virtual Hurricane Echo
As part of FPL’s week-long storm drill, employees responded to Hurricane Echo, a virtual Category 3 hurricane that made landfall in Broward and Miami-Dade counties. The virtual storm took a northerly route through the middle of Florida before exiting near Daytona Beach. The last two days of the drill simulated post-storm restoration activities.
During the simulation, employees tracked outages, assessed damage, communicated with customers and employees and initiated service restoration. They also tested the company’s storm plans and tactics and applied lessons learned from previous hurricanes and other extreme weather events. In addition, to make this simulation as real as possible, FPL generated damage estimates for the fictional storm scenario based on scientific computer models the company has built from decades of storm data.
If a real storm strikes, FPL will provide updated restoration time estimates and other progress reports:
FPL is the largest rate-regulated electric utility in Florida and serves the third-largest number of customers of any electric utility in the U.S. FPL serves some 4.7 million customer accounts and is a leading Florida employer with some 8,900 employees as of year-end 2013.
FPL’s typical 1,000-kWh residential bill is the lowest among reporting electric utilities in Florida as of year-end 2013, and based on data available in July, is about 28 percent below the national average. The utility has one of the lowest emissions profiles and one of the leading energy efficiency programs among U.S. utilities. FPL delivered better than 99.98 percent service reliability as of year-end 2013. FPL has earned the national ServiceOne Award for outstanding customer service for an unprecedented 10 consecutive years. FPL is a subsidiary of Juno Beach, Fla.,-based NextEra Energy Inc.