CEO’s Message: Steady in the Storm

June 2022

By Michael S. McWaters

Most Floridians don’t need to be reminded of the risks that hurricane season poses. Throughout the year we enjoy ample sunshine and a temperate climate, and in return, we know that there will be a few months when we need to prepare for torrential downpours and impossibly strong winds.

At this time last year, we got a taste of that with Tropical Storm Elsa. More than 12,000 SVEC consumers lost power due to the storm, representing nearly half of everyone we serve. Despite the scale of the outage, we were able to restore power in just 24 hours.

The speed of that response was thanks to two key factors. The first is the cooperative principles, which call on cooperatives to help each other in moments of need. Our crews worked hard when Elsa blew through our area, but they never would have been able to restore power so quickly without the help of other cooperatives that came to our aid.

Just a few months later, we had the opportunity to pay it forward when SVEC crews traveled to Louisiana and the Florida Panhandle to pitch in on restoration efforts in the wake of Tropical Storm Fred and Hurricane Ida. These mutual-aid efforts are all part of the cooperative model and I can’t tell you how much peace of mind it brings us to know SVEC will never be without a helping hand if we need it.

The second factor is our own preparation. We work hard throughout the year — not just when hurricane season arrives — to make sure our system is ready to stand up to the abuse of a major storm. We inspect thousands of pieces of equipment each year, including poles, lines and lightning arrestors, and replace them if necessary. We also continually trim our rights-of-way to make sure lines are clear of trees and look for other ways to make our system more resilient to storms.

And we’ve added another resource to our arsenal. Last September, we completed construction of a storm yard at our headquarters that can serve as a base for mutual-aid crews, as well as a site for additional equipment after storms. It’s a new asset that we hope we won’t have to use any time soon, but it will be invaluable when we do need it.

All of these preparations are showing results. Last year, SVEC achieved a new record for reliability, with the average number of times a member was without power for five minutes or more totaling less than two. That’s a testament to the hard work our employees put in and a comfort as we approach our busiest time of year.

While we do everything in our power to make sure our system is prepared for storms, it is just as important that each of our members takes time to protect themselves and their loved ones. That’s why we have put together this hurricane prep guide for our members. I hope each of you will take some time to look through it before the storm clouds gather. When they do, you can trust that SVEC will be ready to take action.