We are ready for hurricane season and our employees continue to prepare for responding to a storm amid COVID-19.
As battle-tested Floridians, we’re no strangers to storms and we’ve weathered more hurricanes together than we care to remember. No matter what nature has thrown at us, we’ve come out stronger – a testament to our collective resilience.
But this year could be different.
Amid what’s forecasted to be an above average hurricane season, we face the very real and daunting prospect of staring down something none of us has experienced: a hurricane and a pandemic at the same time.
I hope we don’t face this double crisis, but we must be ready for it.
Floridians have a fundamental responsibility to prepare for hurricane season. It should be a point of pride and as synonymous with living in Florida as soaking up the sun on a sandy beach or visiting a world-class amusement park.
Just as we’ve taken decisive actions implementing our pandemic plan to combat the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), it’s essential to approach hurricane season the same way. The preparations we make now, before a hurricane forms – let alone threatens our state – will make a meaningful difference in how we recover together.
Bottom line, waiting until a hurricane is on our doorstep to gather supplies or develop a plan isn’t going to cut it this year. The shortages we’ve seen recently will only be magnified once a storm is bearing down on us. And with travel restrictions and social distancing, we all need to reevaluate what a smart evacuation plan looks like.
Florida Power & Light Co.’s (FPL) commitment to serve customers before, during and after a storm remains unchanged. We are ready for hurricane season and our employees continue to prepare for responding to a storm amid COVID-19.
Fortunately, FPL has continued building a stronger, smarter and more storm-resilient energy grid in the nearly 15 years since Hurricane Wilma tore through Florida. These enhancements tangibly benefited customers during hurricanes Irma and Matthew and shaved many days off the restoration. Importantly, these enhancements will allow us to safely restore power during a global pandemic.
For example, hardening efforts, such as stronger power poles and more neighborhood power lines underground, will lead to less damage to our system. The tens of thousands of intelligent devices across the energy grid will allow us to reroute power without sending men and women into the field. And, after a storm clears, our team of drone pilots will be able to quickly assess damage so we can pinpoint where to dispatch crews.
Additionally, FPL’s state-of-the-art power plants require significantly fewer people to operate than the older plants they replaced – minimizing concerns about large numbers of essential employees working in groups. And, in the case of FPL’s two dozen solar power plants, we don’t need anyone to operate them. While our decision 20 years ago to modernize our plants wasn’t done with a pandemic in mind, generating electricity with fewer people physically located at the plants is advantageous.
While FPL is more prepared than ever to respond to a hurricane, the pandemic will create extraordinary challenges that may ultimately delay restoration. During hurricanes, we typically bring in tens of thousands of out-of-state workers to help restore power. Given the current travel restrictions and guidance from health officials, it’s unlikely we’ll amass a restoration force of that size and it will take longer to restore power.
While the conditions we’re facing have changed, our commitment to you has not: we will work around the clock and we won’t stop until everyone’s power is restored.
Just as I have no doubt Florida will overcome COVID-19, I’m confident Floridians will rise to the occasion if a hurricane strikes this year. But getting Florida back up and running safely and as quickly as possible after a hurricane requires us all to approach this season with a new mindset and a renewed sense of pride in being prepared.
ERIC SILAGY, JUNO BEACH
Editor’s note: Silagy is the president and chief executive officer of Florida Power & Light Co.