None of the more than 1,000 nursing homes and assisted living facilities in South Florida are on Florida Power & Light’s highest priority list for power restoration.
FPL rejected Broward and Miami-Dade counties’ lists, which included these facilities, according to the Sun Sentinel.
The decision comes nine months after a dozen patients at a Hollywood nursing home died when temperatures inside The Rehabilitation Center of Hollywood Hills rose, after it lost its air conditioning, along with its power, after hurricane Irma.
After the deaths, the state passed a law requiring nursing homes to have emergency generators. But most of the facilities are not on FPL’s highest priority restoration lists.
I was very dismayed to learn this news and will definitely be asking some tough questions. We will not tolerate another tragedy like the preventable and inexcusable loss of life at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills!https://t.co/KISHuhX65L
— Rep Frederica Wilson (@RepWilson) July 5, 2018
Hospitals and 911 dispatch centers are automatically on the priority list. Counties can then add other places – provided they meet FPL’s requirements.
Host Tom Hudson joins Marcia Pounds, business writer for The Sun Sentinel, to parse out the criteria to be considered a high priority for power after a storm.
WLRN: Who comes up with these lists?
MARCIA POUNDS: The counties come up with the list or they're supposed to. They review the last season's list. They're given the list from FPL, and they look at the lists and decide if they want to add something or subtract.
FPL advises and consents on these lists and has to agree to it, right?
M.P.: That's true. That's what's happened this season. Palm Beach County turned in its list and everything was O.K. But they didn't have any nursing homes or assisted living centers on it and they were able to meet a guideline of 20 percent of main power lines that FPL requires. When Broward and Miami-Dade turned in their priority lists for the season, FPL rejected them.
Let's talk about the guidelines. What does it mean to be on the highest priority list? If a facility is on there, what can they expect?
M.P.: They can expect restoration in a matter of days, FPL says. FPL has to take care of its own power plants after a storm. But as soon as everything is generally up, they turn to this priority list to get the critical infrastructure running. Hospitals and 911 dispatch centers are automatically on the list. After that, counties decide what they want on the list.
That's where the local discretion comes into play. After the 911 centers, after the hospitals, then it becomes what's important? What are the guidelines that FPL provides the counties? Obviously not everything can be the highest priority, because if everything's the highest priority, there is no highest priority.
M.P.: That's certainly what FPL says. They need counties to pick about 20 percent of the main power lines, pick the critical infrastructure that are on those power lines because they can't get to everything at once. That may be understandable. But also what's happened here is that Broward, for example, has said, We have critical infrastructure on some power lines and there's a nursing home on that power line. Can't we have that? They're trying to figure out how to do that. Communication between the utility and the counties has worked better in some instances than others.
What about those instances of communication success or breakdown?
M.P.: FPL told Broward County that it's certainly free to designate nursing homes as part of its list – as long as they keep within their 20 percent guidelines. But, unfortunately, Broward County says it can't seem to get specific information about main power lines and where the critical infrastructure is exactly located. FPL is citing confidentiality and security concerns. They read a letter to FPL rejecting their 2018 list and said, We just can't provide all this information.
This post was updated after the July 6, 2018 episode of The Florida Roundup aired.