Tampa Electric prepares year-round for hurricane season
Tampa Electric is ready to deal with the potential impacts of hurricanes and widespread power outages.
TAMPA, May 28, 2010
Hurricane season starts June 1, but Tampa Electric prepares year-round to deal with the potential impacts of hurricanes and widespread power outages. Tampa Electric’s comprehensive storm plan is in place and ready to help restore power as safely and quickly as possible in the event of severe weather. The company also recommends that customers have a storm plan in place for their homes or businesses.
Hurricane season, which runs through Nov. 30, is a particularly vulnerable time for the system of wires and equipment generating and delivering electricity to homes and businesses. Severe storms can damage Tampa Electric’s energy production and delivery systems, and power outages are not uncommon during storm conditions.
Tampa Electric has taken actions to implement a 10-point plan to “harden” its portion of the state’s electric system against severe weather, including hurricanes. The company invests approximately $20 million on this 10-point plan annually, which includes infrastructure hardening, tree trimming and pole inspections. Overall, this effort includes:
- Inspecting almost 40,000 distribution poles and more than 3,700 transmission structures in 2009 for strength and physical condition.
- Replacing wood transmission structures with non-wood structures during the company’s annual maintenance of the transmission system.
- Trimming tree limbs and branches from more than 1,900 miles of power lines in 2009.
The company also completed the following pilot projects to monitor our electric system that serves critical infrastructure:
- Completed the phase 2 upgrade to the Port of Tampa’s existing electrical transmission and distribution equipment to the standards of National Electrical Safety Code extreme wind construction grade. This project involved replacing approximately 88 existing poles, transformers and switches with equipment designed to withstand winds up to 135 mph.
- Hardened the circuit serving St. Joseph Hospital by upgrading electrical transmission and distribution equipment, also to National Electrical Safety Code extreme wind construction grade standards. This included replacing approximately 30 existing poles with equipment designed to withstand winds up to 135 mph.
To help ensure power supply, in 2009 we completed the installation of peaking units with “black start” capability. With “black start” capability, the company can start peaking units with power from a small on-site engine-driven generator. When one of the units is up and running, it can then provide the amount of power needed to start the power station’s larger generating units. This enables the company to restore the rest of its generating units at the station to service faster than it would be to rely on importing power to its system in the event a hurricane or major storm causes the community’s electric grid to lose power, or go “black.”
Tampa Electric also completed in December 2009 a rail coal unloading facility at our Big Bend Power Station that will provide diversity of transportation methods to receive coal at Big Bend. Previously, coal shipments were received exclusively by waterborne methods, which are subject to disruption from storms in the Gulf of Mexico.
As with all its activities, safety is always Tampa Electric’s number one priority following a storm. Tampa Electric’s second objective in the event of widespread outages is to restore power to the largest number of customers in the shortest possible time. Team members work to restore power to the entire service area as safely and quickly as possible.
Tampa Electric’s restoration priorities
Electric service is restored in priority order. Facilities identified by governmental agencies as “critical” to public health and safety, such as hospitals, disaster centers and main police and fire stations, come first. This way, these critical agencies can assist with other storm-related problems or injuries.
For the protection of public health, primary water and sewer installations are next, followed by others, including communication service providers, schools, nursing homes, supermarkets, home improvement/building supply centers, insurance facilities and others.
Due to the configuration of the power system, part of a residential subdivision could have its power restored while another part is still without power. All residential areas are considered equally important, and Tampa Electric works safely and quickly to restore service to everyone.
Underground electric systems do not guarantee protection from damage by hurricanes and other storms. Uprooted trees, flooding and tidal surges can cause severe damage to the underground system. In flooded areas, storm damage restoration efforts must be delayed until the water has receded, and restoration typically takes longer on underground systems.
When a major storm’s arrival is imminent, Tampa Electric coordinates with utilities and contractors across the nation to mobilize crews towards Florida. Tampa Electric’s crews are placed on call so that they are available to repair any damage affecting Tampa Electric’s lines and equipment – but only when they can do so safely.
Reporting emergency and non-emergency power outages
Residential and commercial customers are encouraged to call Tampa Electric’s dedicated toll-free automated power outage phone number at (877) 588-1010 to report a power outage or electric emergency.
For all other inquiries, customers should use the following numbers:
(813) 223-0800 inside Hillsborough County
(863) 299-0800 in Polk County
(888) 223-0800 (toll-free) outside Hillsborough County or out of state
With our Mutual Assistance Routing System, customer service representatives from other utilities are available to answer customer calls in the event our call center must evacuate.
Updating customer contact information
When a customer calls to report an outage, Tampa Electric’s automated phone system recognizes his or her phone number and/or account number and matches it to his or her address, helping the company locate outages quickly.
To help ensure restoration as quickly as possible, it is important that Tampa Electric has updated telephone numbers. This helps ensure that Tampa Electric can automatically generate a work order for repair crews if an outage occurs at that home or place of business.
The system groups outage calls by location, checks them against a detailed circuit model database and predicts where the problem is. Updated mobile computers in service trucks allow crews to access the expanded information and quickly respond to the outage. This is the fastest, most efficient way Tampa Electric can restore power.
To help prepare for restoration, Tampa Electric asks customers who may have changed their home or business telephone numbers (the phone number at the location where electric service is delivered) to inform the company of the change by visiting tampaelectric.com.
Help for customers in need
Tampa Electric recommends that customers with special needs call their county’s special needs registry office to pre-register with a local response team. The response teams provide aid to persons who require special assistance during evacuations and sheltering because of physical, mental or sensory disabilities. Those offices can be reached at the following numbers: (813) 272-5900 in Hillsborough County, (863) 534-5600 in Polk County, (727) 847-8959 in Pasco County and (727) 464-3800 in Pinellas County.
Electrical safety guidelines
Following a storm, Tampa Electric teams patrol the electric system to locate problems. Customers can enhance their safety and Tampa Electric’s restoration efforts by observing the following guidelines:
- Stay away from any downed power lines. These lines may still be energized. If so, they are dangerous. Downed lines do not have to pop and snap to be energized. All persons should avoid any contact with any downed line or any object, such as a tree branch, fence, vehicle or even water that has come in contact with a downed power line. It is safest to assume any downed power line is energized.
- Use portable generators safely . DO NOT connect a portable generator to home circuits. Plug appliances directly to the generator. Connecting a generator to home circuits may cause power to flow to outside lines, posing life-threatening danger to restoration crews. Also, portable generators must NOT be taken into a residence or any enclosed space where deadly carbon monoxide gasses could build up. There are also other devices, such as inverters, that can provide some emergency backup power for small appliances through an automobile engine. (Note: this should never be done in a closed garage.)
- Obtain a telephone that plugs directly into the wall jack . Portable household telephones won’t work without electricity and area cell phone systems could be disrupted.
- In the event of an outage, prepare the home for power restoration . Customers should make sure their homes are ready to safely receive electricity once power has been restored. Make sure there are no flammable items on the stove, no irons left on or other potentially dangerous situations. Turn off as many appliances as possible that require electricity and turn them on one-by-one after power is restored. This causes less stress to the power system and ensures that all customers get restored without unnecessary delays. Customers may want to leave their front porch light on so they will know when power is restored. When leaving the home for an extended period, customers should switch off their power at the main breaker.
Visit online for more information
Tampa Electric encourages all of its customers to have a personal storm plan in place for their home or business.
The tampaelectric.com/weatherwatch web page includes current weather information, an emergency checklist, a downloadable storm brochure, storm preparedness tips, useful weather links and more. From the home page, simply click the Weather Watch button. At Tampa Electric’s new mobile web site, m.tampaelectric.com, customers can get outage information on their web-enabled cell phones.
Also available online is information on the Zap Cap System® for Home or for Business, Tampa Electric’s complete year-round surge suppression system for homes and businesses, to help protect sensitive electronics and appliances from damaging, high-voltage surges.
Tampa Electric Company is the principal subsidiary of TECO Energy, Inc. (NYSE: TE), an energy-related holding company, with regulated utility operations in Florida including both Tampa Electric and Peoples Gas System. Other subsidiaries include TECO Coal, which owns and operates coal production facilities in Kentucky and Virginia, and TECO Guatemala, which is engaged in electric power generation and distribution and energy-related businesses in Guatemala.