JUNO BEACH, Fla.–(HISPANIC PR WIRE – BUSINESS WIRE)–May 12, 2004–It’s been almost 12 years since Hurricane Andrew wreaked havoc on South Florida, disrupting the lives of hundreds of thousands of people and leaving more than 1.4 million Florida Power & Light Company customers without electricity, some for as much as 34 days. For many FPL employees, 12 years ago seems like just yesterday.
“Hurricane Andrew caught everyone by surprise,” says Geisha Williams, vice president – distribution for FPL, “and that in itself taught us a very valuable lesson – and one everyone in Florida can benefit from, too – the need for preparation,” said Williams. “No one knows how much damage a hurricane will cause or how widespread it may be, so we all must prepare for the worst.”
Unfortunately, there’s no way of knowing immediately just how long service restoration efforts are going to take. FPL damage assessment personnel must first get into the field and assess the damage, often under extremely difficult and dangerous conditions. Williams said, “That’s why we encourage all our customers to begin planning early – just like we do – and prepare for being out of service for a week or more. Our response time since Andrew typically has been only a few days in most events, but we haven’t experienced the likes of another Andrew, either. With a major storm or one that affects a widespread area it could take weeks to get every customer back in service.
“Most importantly, we encourage our customers to include safety in their preparations – just as we do at FPL. Whether it’s taking down a TV antenna before the storm hits or spotting a downed wire or other potential hazard after the storm has cleared, be sure to make safety a key ingredient in your storm planning.”
On May 26 and 27, thousands of FPL employees will join forces in an annual “storm dry run” that will test the company’s ability to deal with a simulated hurricane of statewide proportions. While this storm damage will be only simulated, FPL’s storm team will be practicing the lessons learned in Andrew and a number of smaller hurricanes, tornadoes and other severe weather events that have occurred since 1992.
“At FPL, we begin preparing our storm team months in advance of hurricane season, we alert our suppliers to begin stocking up on poles, wire and all the other electrical equipment that might be needed,” she said. “We go over our list of food and hotel vendors we might need to feed and shelter our crews who may be working on restoration for days, weeks or, as in Andrew, a month or more. We simulate setting up staging areas that place our crews as close to the damage as possible to speed up restoration time. And finally, we practice – not the kind of things we do on a day-in, day-out basis like putting up wires and transformers, but rather how we will organize and develop restoration strategies and tactics when and if the destruction is major.”
FPL follows a restoration plan that concentrates on getting service restored to essential customers first like hospitals, police, fire, communications, water, sanitary services and transportation providers. Then, FPL crews turn their attention to making repairs to electrical facilities that will return service to the largest number of customers in the shortest period of time, then the next largest number and so on until power is restored to everyone.
Williams said FPL also has learned from past storms the importance of increasing its ability to communicate with customers. “Our call centers use an automated outage reporting system, which takes the information customers enter and generates reports for prioritization according to our restoration plan. In an emergency, we activate extra lines and add personnel to the customer call centers to help facilitate the increased call volume. These individuals handle primarily emergency calls immediately after a storm and continue to work 12-hour shifts until service is restored to all customers.”
“We are prepared to handle whatever damage this storm season may bring,” Williams said. “FPL will deploy all our resources to restore power as quickly as possible, but we encourage our customers to prepare for an extended outage just in case. Most of all, we urge our customers to make their safety and the safety of their families their highest priority…just as we do at FPL.”
Following are some tips to aid in your storm preparations:
— Learn all you can about getting prepared for a storm, what to do during a storm and about being prepared to manage safely after a storm when utilities and normal community services may be interrupted.
— Local emergency management urges residents to prepare to be self sufficient for at least 3 – 14 days. Keep a battery-operated radio with you and a two-week supply of fresh batteries. A battery-operated radio may be the only way you will receive emergency public information during a disaster.
— Put your FPL account number and our phone number (1-800-4-OUTAGE) in a secure location that will be readily available in case you need to call us. By knowing your account number, you will be able to quickly access your account and receive important information through our automated system.
— If your preparation includes plans for operating a portable generator in the event of an outage at your home, after the storm has passed be sure to set it up outside and connect appliances directly to it. Please do not wire your generator directly to your breaker or fuse box, because the power you generate may flow back into power lines and cause injuries.
What can customers do during and after a storm? Here are some tips:
— When winds reach 35 mph or flooding is significant, stay out of harm’s way. At FPL, we care about our employees, and we insist they too remain safe, so we suspend work in the field until conditions improve.
— Stay away from downed lines, flooding and debris. Don’t walk in standing water and don’t venture out in the dark because you might not see a power line that could still be energized and dangerous.
How does FPL know who’s without power and when should I call?
— Right after a storm, we’ll know if large power lines have been damaged and you’re without power. Please help us keep the phone lines open by only calling FPL if you need to report an emergency like a downed power line or electrical equipment that is sparking and dangerous.
— If your neighborhood gets power back on a day or two after a storm — but you’re still without power — then please call us at 1-800-4-OUTAGE. Please have your account number available when you call and an automated system will record your outage information.
— Stay tuned to local radio, TV and newspapers for specific reports on FPL’s progress in assessing and repairing damage to the electrical system in your area.
We use a well-tested plan to restore service. Here’s how we work:
— First we assess the overall system and repair FPL power plants and the major lines that carry power from plants to towns and communities.
— Next, we restore service to essential customers who provide for community health, safety and public welfare — such as hospitals, police, fire, communications and water, sanitary and transportation providers.
— We simultaneously deploy field teams to conduct neighborhood-by-neighborhood damage assessments. We do this so the right resources, crews and materials are assigned to each effort. We also set up special staging sites in the hardest hit areas.
— After essential customers, we restore all other customers using a priority restoration process. The process focuses on making repairs to electrical facilities that will return power to the largest number of people first, then the next largest number, and so on, until power is returned to everyone.
— Work is not assigned according to when you called to report your outage, where you live or the status of your account. Work will begin in multiple locations wherever we have damage and customers out of service and it will progress according to a plan that prioritizes groups over individuals.
— Once we’ve assessed damage, we will provide an estimate of when repairs will be finished and power restored in your area. If you have access to a computer, visit us at our storm information center at http://www.FPL.com for an update.
As a customer, what can I do after a storm?
— Before you call to report an outage, check all circuit breakers or fuses to help determine if your service outage might be the result of a household problem.
— If you have significant water damage in your home that might make it unsafe, call a licensed electrician for advice.
— Visually inspect the area outside your home near the meter. If the meter or any of the piping and wires on the wall of your home or office is gone or look damaged, call an electrician for advice.
— If no problems are apparent, FPL will re-connect your service or assist in determining whether you have a household problem.
— Visit http://www.FPL.com for pre and post-storm customer tips, a Hurricane Q&A and – when events occur — news of storm restoration and maps.
Florida Power & Light Company is the principal subsidiary of FPL Group, Inc. (NYSE:FPL), nationally known as a high quality, efficient and customer-driven organization focused on energy-related products and services. With annual revenues of more than $9 billion and a growing presence in 26 states, FPL Group is widely recognized as one of the country’s premier power companies. Florida Power & Light Company serves more than 4.2 million customer accounts in Florida. FPL Energy, Inc., FPL Group’s energy-generating subsidiary, is a leader in producing electricity from clean and renewable fuels. Additional information is available on the Internet at http://www.FPL.com, http://www.FPLGroup.com and http://www.FPLEnergy.com.
Note to Editors: High-resolution logos and executive head shots are available for download at http://www.fpl.com/news/contents/logos.shtml.
Florida Power & Light Company, Miami
Corporate Communications Dept.
Media Line: Karen Vissepo, 305/552-3888