FPL conducts hurricane drills with pandemic as factor

hurricane season
If a hurricane strikes, electric crews will still have to consider virus safety.

While coronavirus continues to grip Florida with increasing case counts by the day, the pandemic is a consideration as the state enters the throes of hurricane season. Florida Power & Light is taking steps to make sure they can handle a hurricane and a pandemic at the same time.

The power company conducted multiple tests in the past two weeks with 3,000 employees to see how they’d respond to a category 1 hurricane situation and manage coronavirus issues. FPL held much of the drill this week after coronavirus delayed planned drills in May.

The simulation presented the fictitious storm “Hurricane Clyde” making landfall in the Naples area from the Gulf of Mexico. The scenario induced the proposition that 1.1 million FPL customers were negatively impacted by the storm.

FPL employees responded to hypothetical conditions including tornadoes, felled trees and blocked roads. The hypothetical hurricane emergency also factored in restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The hypothetical hurricane crossing the Florida peninsula even included an emergency relief staging area for crews at the St. Lucie County Fairgrounds outside of Fort Pierce.

FPL officials said the inclusion of the pandemic factor was essential to conducting a realistic hurricane response tests for FPL crews this year.

“It’s why we’ve spent the last two weeks drilling and challenging our teams to test their assumptions to find ways to increase productivity and efficiencies to better serve our customers, all while never sacrificing safety,” said FPL President and CEO Eric Silagy.

“We’re working tirelessly to be there for customers during a time when reliable, uninterrupted electricity is needed more than ever. This will only be amplified if we are dealt a hurricane amid COVID-19 and we continue to do everything we can to ensure we’re in the best possible position to be there for customers when they need us most,” Silagy said.

FPL vendors and contractors were also included in the drills. Throughout most of the exercises, employees and contracted workers conducted drills with social distancing in play, as they would if a real hurricane struck this year.

Drew Dixon

Drew Dixon is a journalist of 40 years who has reported in print and broadcast throughout Florida, starting in Ohio in the 1980s. He is also an adjunct professor of philosophy and ethics at three colleges, Jacksonville University, University of North Florida and Florida State College at Jacksonville. You can reach him at [email protected]


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