As Hurricane Wilma continues to churn in the Gulf of Mexico, Florida Power & Light Company is making preparations for a possible landfall in its service territory and urging its customers that may be in the path of the storm to prepare and review their personal and business plans.
The forecast from the National Hurricane Center indicates Hurricane Wilma will make landfall in Southwest Florida and go across the state touching a large part of FPL's service territory. FPL reminds its customers that now is the time to review family and business emergency plans and keep a close watch on the development of the storm and follow the advice and guidelines of your local government.
Should a Category 3 hurricane make landfall in Southwest Florida and cross the state as forecasted by the National Hurricane Center, the powerful storm will cause widespread and extended power outages. A Category 3 storm, categorized as a major hurricane and its accompanying storm surge, can result in severe damage to the electrical system possibly requiring weeks to repair or rebuild. In addition, restoration may be hampered by flooding, fallen structures and other obstacles left in the wake of a major storm. FPL employees and contractors are prepared to work long hours after the storm passes, restoring service to customers as quickly and as safely as possible.
FPL begins preparations
All day today FPL personnel have been busy contacting suppliers, arranging for additional restoration workers from other parts of the country, reviewing employee storm assignments and reaching out to emergency management officials to review emergency plans that affect the critical infrastructure - such as police, fire, hospitals, communications, water, sanitary services and transportation -- of the communities the company serves. In addition, FPL employees are making their own family preparations before reporting to their storm assignments.
After a storm passes, FPL's restoration plan calls for restoring power to the greatest number of customers as quickly and safely as possible concurrent with the restoration of a community's critical infrastructure. The speed of restoration is based on the path of the storm, its intensity and the amount of resources available. FPL works with emergency operations officials to first restore power to the public health and safety critical infrastructure - such as hospitals, police, fire, communications, water, sanitary services and transportation.
Almost simultaneously, FPL turns its attention to repairing electrical facilities that will return service to the largest number of customers in the shortest period of time, and then the next largest number and so on until crews converge in the hardest hit areas and service is restored to every customer.
FPL Emergency Plan
FPL's emergency plan works as follows:
-- 72 hours before storm landfall - FPL activates its command center and alerts its storm organization. The logistics team initiates its plans by increasing inventory levels and alerting vendors and suppliers. At this point, potential staging sites are pre-identified, and state and county emergency centers are contacted as well as external utilities/contractors.
-- 48 hours before storm landfall - FPL's computer models predict system damage, an initial restoration plan is developed and resource requirements are forecasted. Commitments for personnel, materials and logistics are sought to support the restoration effort. Also, employees continue to prepare their families and homes and travel teams are identified.
-- 24 hours before storm landfall - A pre-check of equipment, facilities and systems is conducted. External personnel are pre-staged out of harm's way, mobile inventory and rapid trailers are readied and messages delivered by FPL's spokespeople are given to the media.
Out of state crews
As part of its preparations, FPL is already in contact with utilities in other parts of the country to have both line and vegetation management crews deployed in Florida ready to begin work following Hurricane Wilma. While the company has activated its resource acquisition strategy, the destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita in the Gulf states is making it more difficult to acquire and deploy crews before Hurricane Wilma makes landfall. The company says it will have its crews staged and ready to work as well as a number of crews from out of state before the hurricane makes landfall, but other out of state restoration workers will arrive after Wilma leaves the state since line and vegetation crews are stretched thin after just completing the work in the Gulf states.
How FPL's storm structure works
-- Storm Command Center - From this location, FPL manages the restoration efforts throughout its 35-county service area, working through various FPL service centers and a number of staging sites. It's like the brain center where the restoration and logistics planning takes place, instructing staging sites and service centers on how to go about restoring power back to the communities.
-- Staging Sites - These working sites are in addition to FPL's service centers and house the thousands of restoration crews and support personnel who are executing the restoration plan. These sites are pre-selected before the storm season and arrangements are made beforehand for technology hookups.
-- Service centers - FPL uses its own facilities to house