FPL conducts 'virtual storm' test in preparation for hurricane season

FPL's storm plan focuses on readiness, restoration and recovery in order to safely respond as quickly as possible after a hurricane strikes

Juno Beach Fla., May 5, 2011 Florida Power and Light Co. conducted the final major exercise in its annual, company-wide emergency response and restoration preparations in advance of hurricane season.

With long-range forecasts predicting another active hurricane season, FPL continues to take storm season preparation seriously, working to advance its restoration capabilities and investing in improvements to the reliability and resiliency of its infrastructure.

FPL's storm plan focuses on readiness, restoration and recovery in order to safely respond as quickly as possible after a hurricane strikes.

Employees from across the company participated in the annual hurricane drill to practice the plan, which includes pre-positioning resources, tracking outages, modeling and assessing damage, communicating with customers and initiating restoration.

Throughout the simulation, FPL tested its storm response strategy and tactics, incorporating new technology and applying lessons learned from previous hurricanes and other extreme weather events.

This year's simulated hurricane, "Gale," formed in the Atlantic Ocean and made landfall near the City of North Miami as a Category 3. The storm then moved northward and exited at Brevard County.

This storm created pockets of severe flooding in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, adding to the restoration challenge.

To make the simulation as real as possible, FPL generates damage estimates for the fictional scenario to test the ability of the team to remain flexible but focused on the ultimate mission: restoring power to customers safely and as quickly as possible.

FPL prepares year-round for hurricane season, conducting extensive training so its employees can respond safely and as quickly as possible if a storm threatens its service territory.

FPL also coordinates assistance agreements with other utilities for out-of-state support, orders restoration supplies and equipment and secures staging sites throughout Florida. These preparations enable the company to quickly deploy crews and equipment to storm-damaged communities.

In addition, FPL works closely with emergency operations officials to update lists of infrastructure and facilities that are critical to the community, such as hospitals, police and fire stations, 911 communication facilities, water treatment plants and transportation providers.

Since 2006, FPL has strengthened the electrical infrastructure serving every major hospital and acute care facility in its service territory to better withstand Florida's strong winds and severe weather.

Overall in 2010, FPL invested more than $100 million in distribution system reliability programs, including vegetation management, priority feeders and overhead line inspections, to keep reliability high for customers.

In addition, FPL invested more than $45 million in 2010 to strengthen the distribution system infrastructure. While a severe storm will still cause outages, these strengthening investments are designed to facilitate faster restoration for the most critical facilities following a storm.

When a severe storm is forecast to make landfall on FPL's service territory, the company activates its emergency response plan to prepare for potential damage to the electrical infrastructure, which can be caused by rainfall, flooding, high winds, lightning, storm surge, blowing debris or falling trees.

These factors can affect both overhead and underground power lines, and customers should be aware that restoration efforts in the wake of a damaging storm can be lengthy.

Based on forecasts and experience, FPL prepositions crews, supplies and equipment so, after the storm passes, they can be deployed as quickly as possible to the affected communities.

Depending on the severity of the storm, the company may request reinforcements from other utilities and establish staging sites throughout its 35-county service territory prior to landfall.

Also, although FPL's nuclear power plants are built to safely withstand Category 5 hurricane forces and associated "worst-case" storm surges, FPL shuts them down before hurricane-force winds impact the sites, as part of the company's standard storm procedures.

After a storm clears, FPL immediately deploys field teams to conduct damage assessments in affected areas.

This helps the company assign appropriate resources, crews and materials to each effort and provide customers an estimate of when repairs will be finished and power restored in their area.

When outages occur, FPL knows that its customers need information about when their power will be restored. If a major storm impacts FPL's service territory, FPL will be working to restore power as soon as it is safe to begin and will provide its best estimates of when service will be restored.

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