The states of California and Florida are no strangers to natural disasters that can cause extensive power outages and significant damage to electric infrastructure. Whether it's an earthquake or a hurricane, employees with Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) and Florida Power & Light Company (FPL) constantly evaluate their preparedness and practice their response to these types of catastrophic events. To help ensure that extra resources are available to repair damage and restore service safely and more quickly following a widespread emergency, PG&E and FPL recently signed their first mutual aid agreement with another electric utility on the opposite side of the country.
"As the recent earthquake in Napa County reminded us, we never know when the next natural disaster will strike our area. We are constantly assessing opportunities to improve our readiness to respond and we are very pleased to have the opportunity to partner with FPL to support one another in being ready to serve our customers in times of need. This cross-continent agreement makes extra resources available from a utility unlikely to be affected by the same natural disaster," said Geisha Williams, PG&E's executive vice president of electric operations.
Williams noted that it is particularly fitting for the agreement to be signed near the 25th anniversary of the Loma Prieta earthquake this Friday.
"In the aftermath of a natural disaster, FPL and PG&E share a common goal of returning life to normal as quickly and safely as possible," said Manny Miranda, vice president of power delivery for FPL. "This innovative, cross country partnership is yet another example of our commitment to doing what's necessary to achieve that goal, particularly during times of crisis when our customers depend upon us most."
Through this agreement, both PG&E and FPL will commit more than 100 employees, including linemen, equipment operators, supervisors and support personnel to help restore power in the impacted utility's service area. These workers will augment hundreds of other staff that the utility can mobilize in response to an emergency through regional mutual aid agreements with neighboring utilities, contractors and internal resources.
PG&E assembled a team of subject matter experts, including support from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, to evaluate the plan and help ensure it works effectively. For example, since transporting vehicles and equipment across the country can take several days, deployed employees will fly across the country and use the host utility's trucks and tools to help expedite the restoration efforts. The agreement also outlines common work procedures and safety protocols.
Unlike an earthquake, utilities typically have a few days to prepare for strong winter storms or powerful hurricanes. For these types of weather events, this unique agreement will mobilize company resources ahead of time and have them ready to respond onsite before the storm hits.