15 Sep Stay Aware. Be Prepared.
September is National Preparedness Month. In the utility industry, preparing for disaster is one of the most important, if not the most important things you can do. When disaster strikes, there is no time to think- just react.
Thinking back 20 years to the Northeast blackout of 2003, one of the largest blackouts to occur at the time. Although most had power restored within 12 hours, this was still a massive “disaster.” Heavily populated areas like Staten Island, New York, and Toronto, Ontario, were greatly affected by this blackout, which turned out to be due to a software bug. Now, in some countries, rolling blackouts that last for 8-12 hours at a time, are the norm. However, most people are not equipped or prepared to handle a power outage of any length of time. The word “disaster” is subjective. For someone who may be connected to a ventilator or other life-supporting machine, one or two hours of no electricity is quite literally life or death. On a larger scale, when hurricane season rolls around- depending on where you’re located on the East Coast, your level of preparedness and anxiety will vary.
When I think of hurricanes, my mind immediately goes to Florida. Our friends at Florida Power & Light (FPL) showed us what they’re made of at this past annual conference in Fort Lauderdale. The amount of engineering, technology, and overall strength and grit that goes into their storm resource equipment is astounding. FPL is no stranger to disaster preparedness and recovery, so much so that they are frequently lending a hand to other states in their own efforts battling disaster. The good thing is, and the bad thing is, that Florida is used to natural disasters like hurricanes. FPL set the bar high not only as our host utility at T&T 2023 but also as first responders in the state of Florida and many others.
If you’re from Florida, hurricane season is something you must prepare for. Investing in storm doors, shutters, “Go Bags,” and Meals Ready-to-Eat (MREs) are all very standard and not uncommon in most homes in hurricane-prone locations. Compared to a more northern state like New Jersey, these things would be a lot less common and the utility providers for that state will not have the same robust fleet of storm resources as FPL. It makes sense to not invest hundreds of thousands of dollars into equipment that may only be used once a year or maybe even once every five years. But, when that one massive storm finally rolls around- you may reconsider that investment. Think of Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
Science has come a long way and while we have the tools to predict when a hurricane or tornado may be coming, and exactly where its line of destruction will be, Mother Nature will always do what she pleases.
Being prepared is a must. However, there are some disasters you simply cannot prepare for. While technology is advancing right before our eyes, disasters like wildfires, earthquakes, mudslides, and floods are all unpredictable. You can’t prepare for them, but you can prepare for what to do when they strike. It’s important for you and your loved ones to have a plan when that worst-case scenario occurs. Take the time to finally change those batteries in that smoke detector, clean the lint trap in your dryer, have a contractor fix that flooding basement, and cut down that tree leaning over your fence. There are so many things that we take for granted each day and put off, that eventually may actually save our lives or someone else’s.