Utility command centers locked down like Fort Knox
Florida Power & Light Co.’s 10,000-square-foot Riviera Beach Command Center is essentially Florida’s Fort Knox.
It’s made of layers of concrete block that can withstand Category 5 winds of 157 mph and higher.
That’s why 112 of FPL’s employees were stationed there to ride out Hurricane Irma, monitor power outages of its five million customers, and coordinate a massive restoration effort involving 17,000 utilities workers from 30 states and Canada.
The $3.8 million command center, built in 2012, seems unassuming from the outside. But inside, the single-story building is a state-of-the-art “bunker,” as some employees call it, with dozens of 55-inch flat-screen televisions lining the walls.
Those screens danced with images of storm damage from Irma, power outage numbers and maps with the company’s grid showing outages home-by-home in the 35 counties FPL serves.
Employees worked in shifts, some busy tapping away on keyboards, eyes fixated on their computer monitors, while others napped on cots with pillows and blankets provided by FPL — the state’s largest electric utility provider and the third largest in the country.
FPL president and CEO Eric Silagy hunkered down with his employees.
Ed Devarona, senior director of emergency preparedness, was stationed for days in one of the command center’s spacious board rooms planning a mass restoration effort to bring electricity back to an estimated 6 million people Irma could leave in the dark.
A small army of 17,000 were deployed once tropical storm force winds subside and flood waters receded.
Diane Rayne, human resources business partner for FPL’s human resources corporate services, provides emotional support to employees who need it before and after the storm.
"It’s a very high-stress time," Rayne said.
Rayne mobilized a home repair team to help employees rebuild after the storm, she said. She’s also had ice and water delivered to crews in the field restoring power. Weathering a storm is sometimes traumatizing for employees, she said.
"You’ve got everybody that’s here that are dedicated and people out on the field that are dedicated to getting our customers back in power," Rayne said. "We all know that’s part of the job, but in the back of our minds, we’re worried about our homes and our families."
Source: USA Today