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Friday, February 29, 2008

Note to Self: Pay attention to what you do in substations!

FPL. Florida Power and Light workers walk inside compound of the Flagami substation located next to FP & L headquarters in Miami, Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2008. An FP & L spokesman said the power outage that affected as many as three million people in southern Florida on Tuesday began at this substation. AP

Over the years I have been involved in thousands of switching orders and intricate operations involving substations. I've seen some mistakes made. I have personally made some of them. Heck, a few years ago I ordered a breaker to be closed which resulted in killing several cattle who had gathered around a downed transmission line. But, this guy has all of my experiences beaten hands down. Getting confused and tripping off 26 transmission lines and Turkey Point Nuclear Plant is quite the accomplishment!

I feel sorry for the guy, but this event, which plunged most of Florida into darkness, points out how easily a small mis-step can turn into a full blown disaster when dealing with electric power. When weather, or equipment failure, or a wreck plunges your home or business into darkness, there are folks who are instantly involved in doing complicated switching work like this and those folks are never going to be known or recognized unless they make a mistake. The same day this event occurred in Florida, it is likely that 5,000 complicated switching operations took place successfully all across North America, some of them right here in Glasgow, and none of those got any attention. In our business, success equals invisibility; but the slightest error opens the door to danger and death, or, at the very least, unwanted fame for being the guy that operated the wrong switch in the wrong order. When electric linemen or technicians make a mistake, people all over a huge state like Florida can know about it less than a second later!

I just thought you might like to know how the Florida situation relates to what happens in substations a lot like the one in the picture right here in Glasgow. For the most part, your team at the EPB is successful at these operations and thus, are mostly invisible. We like it that way!

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