As part of its storm season preparations, Florida Power & Light Co. hosted a week-long "staging site" training at the Pompano Park Racetrack in Pompano Beach, Fla. More than 1,200 employees trained for what would be a massive logistical response to a major hurricane, including the deployment of thousands of workers, equipment and the use of advanced technology and unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) to rapidly survey damage.
"This week's staging site training is yet another visible demonstration of how FPL prepares year-round to safely and quickly restore power when a major event, such as a hurricane, impacts our customers' lives," said Manny Miranda, senior vice president of power delivery for FPL. "This is one of the many ways our employees train for storm season, using a hands-on experience to test our power restoration plans."
Pompano Park is one of approximately 100 designated staging sites strategically located across the state to serve as critical resource centers to move crews and equipment closer to areas hit hardest after a major storm. Staging sites operate like mini-cities; they offer hundreds of crew members a place to rest, eat, refuel and stock up on supplies as they work safely and quickly to restore customers' service and help get communities back to normal.
During last year's Hurricane Matthew, for example, FPL opened 26 staging sites and supporting centers to direct its nearly 15,000-member restoration crew – the largest pre-staging effort of its kind in the company's history – to speed the restoration process. FPL restored nearly 99 percent of customers affected by Hurricane Matthew by the end of two full days of restoration following the hurricane's exit from its service area.
During this week's training, FPL employees participated in damage briefings and performed assessments of equipment. FPL also demonstrated how technology plays an important part in surveying equipment and speeding restoration efforts. Critical to the restoration process following Hurricane Matthew, FPL deployed UAS, or drones, more than 130 times to quickly survey storm damage in areas that were otherwise inaccessible or unsafe in the storm's immediate aftermath.
FPL learns from past storms, makes investments to strengthen energy grid
This year's hurricane season, beginning June 1, also marks the 25th anniversary of Hurricane Andrew, which impacted 1.4 million customers in five counties. Following Andrew, FPL established the concept of staging sites to accelerate post-storm recovery efforts as a lesson learned.
Since the historic 2004/2005 storm season, FPL has invested nearly $3 billion to strengthen the energy grid against severe weather, including:
- Hardening more than 700 main power lines serving critical community facilities and services, such as police and fire stations, hospitals, 911 centers, grocery stores and gas stations;
- 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); and
- 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.
"We all must safeguard against complacency, particularly where it concerns hurricanes," said Miranda. "At FPL, we've worked hard to put ourselves in the best possible position to respond to severe weather and we never stop working to improve. While we have made significant investments in our electric system, we know there still will be power outages following a major storm. Just as we continue to prepare and plan, we encourage our customers to do the same – make a storm plan now for their families and businesses."