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Gulf Power Readies for Hurricanes and Other Emergencies

Dave Dunwoody, WUWF Public Media

Gulf Power Company conducted its annual exercise Tuesday, aimed at restoring electricity in the aftermath of a hurricane or other emergency.

The situation room was full at the new Douglas McCrary Training and Storm Center on Pine Forest Rd., working on developments after “Hurricane Sharon.”

“The scenario is, it’s the day after a major hurricane has impacted the Gulf Coast, made landfall in Navarre,’ said Jeff Rogers, External Communications Manager at Gulf Power.

“Crews are just starting to arrive from out of town to help us,” Rogers said. “The first 6-8 hours, 12 hours, we’re assessing the damage, and putting together a plan to get everyone back on.”

In a real emergency, it’s all hands on deck. Every employee has an assignment, and if needed crews from outside can be summoned to help follow a detailed restoration plan for the 447 thousand customers from Pensacola to Panama City.

Gulf Power, as well as other local service providers already have gone through two real-life storm aftermaths – involving the twisters hitting Century and Pensacola eight days apart in February. But Rogers says they’re not affecting this drill.

“Actually, it was the tornadoes in Tuscaloosa [Alabama, in 2011] that made us think a bit differently and start adding them to the mix,” said Rogers. “And if you remember back to [Hurricane] Ivan [in 2004], we had our share of tornadoes that touched down.”

For the exercise, the Gulf Power service map is divided into three main districts – Eastern, Central and Western -- with subdivisions within each. While Hurricane Sharon is fictional, Rogers says they’ve drawn knowledge and skills from past, real storms.

After the end of the drill early Tuesday afternoon, Gulf Power’s Jeff Rogers says they’ll sit down and review the data in search of weaknesses.

“We know we’re good at it, but we’re going to find out where we’re not good at it, and we’re going to work and make those improvements,” Rogers said.

More information on being prepared for a hurricane – along with floods, tornadoes, ice storms, et cetera – can be found at www.MyGulfPower.com. Gulf Power will also be represented at county emergency operation centers within its service area, during the annual statewide hurricane exercise May 18.

Dave came to WUWF in September, 2002, after 14 years as News Director at the Alabama Radio Network in Montgomery, Mobile and Birmingham and a total of 27 years in commercial radio. He's also served as Alabama Bureau Chief for United Press International, and a stringer for the Birmingham Post-Herald.