Florida’s decade-long hurricane drought came to an end last year. Hurricane Hermine, the first hurricane to strike the state since Wilma in 2005, was followed by the more powerful Hurricane Matthew, which caused extensive damage to the state’s East Coast due to storm surge.
Areas sustained hurricane-force winds that impacted our service area while the storm’s eye loomed only miles from the shore.
Preparation for any type of emergency is crucial. With storm season upon us, it’s time to make sure you, your family and your business has a plan to put into action when storm warnings and watches are posted.
Iliana Rentz is manager of emergency preparedness for Florida Power & Light Company, the largest energy company in the state, serving more than 4.9 million customer accounts or about 10 million people across half the state. She says anytime there isn’t a storm, the company prepares for one. And, last year was no different.
“Mother Nature showed her strength and unpredictability last year, testing us and many Floridians,” Rentz said. “Our employees were prepared and ready to respond because of the constant training they receive. And, the energy grid was prepared, as well, due to the nearly $3 billion in investments we have made over the past 11 years that provide reliable service to our customers in good weather and bad.”
Investments to grid make a difference
FPL’s investments to the grid were tested last year during Hurricane Matthew and demonstrated its benefit to customers. The company was able to restore 99 percent of customers affected by the storm by the end of two full days of restoration following the hurricane’s exit from its service area.
Automated switches installed on poles and wires prevented 118,000 customer interruptions and no FPL transmission poles and strengthened main power line poles failed. Since Hurricane Wilma, FPL has made the energy grid stronger, smarter and more storm- resilient to provide reliable service to its customers and to get the communities it serves back to normal faster following severe weather or a tropical storm.
The company has prepared the grid over the past 11 years by:
• Strengthening main power lines, including those that serve more than 700 critical community facilities and services, such as hospitals, police and fire stations, grocery stores, gas stations and other services necessary for communities to recover after a storm;
• Clearing vegetation — a major cause of power outages — from more than 150,000 miles of power lines;
• Inspecting the company’s 1.2 million power poles every eight years, and upgrading or replacing those that no longer meet FPL's standards for strength (approximately 150,000 poles inspected annually)
• Installing more than 4.9 million smart meters and 66,000 intelligent devices to help predict, reduce and prevent power outages, and restore power faster if outages occur.
Before a storm threatens the area:
• Create an emergency plan for your family, including where you and your pets will go if there is an evacuation.
• If someone in your home is dependent on electric-powered, life-sustaining medical equipment, review your family emergency plan for backup power or make arrangements to relocate when a storm warning is issued.
• Have your trees properly trimmed by a specially trained line-clearing specialist to minimize their potential impact on your home and neighborhood. Make sure debris is cleared prior to a hurricane warning announcement when trash pickup is suspended.
• Stay at least 10 feet away from neighborhood power lines when you are making any preparations.
• Have your phone and other electronic devices charged ahead of a storm and obtain portable charges.
• Read and follow manufacturer’s guidelines to safely operate a generator.
For more tips on how to stay safe and prepare for the 2017 storm season visit FPL.com/storm.
“At FPL, we've worked hard to put ourselves in the best possible position to respond to severe weather and restore our customers’ power safely and as quickly as possible after a storm strikes,” said Rentz. “We are prepared because we have a plan that we update and adjust every year from the lessons we have learned from our storm drill or past storms. Just like FPL has a plan, we encourage our customers to have a plan, too.”