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Fax store-and-forward eases disaster planning.


One of the most important keys to the effective handling of a nuclear power plant emergency is the timely and accurate exchange of information linking the utility, government agencies, news media, and the general public.

At Florida Power & Light Co., achievement of this goal is being enhanced by the use of a facsimile store-and-forward system to transmit hard-copy backups of emergency phone communications.

Flexibly broadcasting these paper copies to various locations (Florida, Washington D.C., and other locations), a facsimile network switch is helping to assure that emergency information is communicated as quickly, accurately, and completely as possible.

Established in 1925, FPL is the fourth-largest investor-owned utility in the nation, serving 5.8 million customers in all or part of 35 countries in northeast, southeast, and southwest Florida.

The only company outside of Japan to win the Deming Award for Quality, Florida Power & Light is a highly progressive utility whose corporate goal is "to become the best managed electric utility in the United States and an excellent company overall and be recognized as such."

Since the early '70s, when FPL constructed its first nuclear reactor at Turkey Point near Miami, the utility has continued to increase its use of nuclear energy.

A second nuclear unit was soon installed at Turkey Point, and two additional units were added at St. Lucie near Fort Pierce in 1976 and 1983.

Today, nuclear energy accounts for more than 30% of all energy produced by the utility.

Prior to the 1979 nuclear power plant accident at Three Mile Island (TMI) in Pennsylvania, FPL as well as other U.S. utilities had to have an emergency response plan for their nuclear units.

However, following TMI, additional emergency planning requirements were established by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

These requirements included development of on-site technical and operations support centers, an off-site emergency operations facility, and an off-site emergency news center at both Turkey Point and St. Lucie.

In addition, rapid notification of government agencies and continuing release of information to the public were required.

These rapid notification requirements have been fully met using telephone communications. Hard copies were not required.

Backup Needed

But FPL decided it would be prudent to back up these voice messages with hard copies in the case of more serious events.

Initially, FPL used electronic mail to provide hard copies of telephone communications.

However, this approach was cumbersome, requiring trained operators to type messages. It also took too long and provided no way of prioritizing message transmissions.

An external fax store-and-forward service worked well, but the service was discontinued.

Point-to-point transmission of hard copies was considered but was too time-consuming and would have resulted in limitations in copy distribution.

FPL finally landed on the 3M FaxXchange facsimile network switch. Six ports send and receive facsimile documents. The system can be expanded to eight ports.

In the future, the switch also may be equipped with an ASCII-to-fax option for converting computer input to facsimile output.

Document broadcasting capabilities provided by the switch make it possible to simultaneously deliver up to six facsimile documents at a time, eliminating the need for multiple individual machines.

The switch has been used in annual NRC-required tests of emergency plans at each FPL nuclear site.

The fax store-and-forward system performed successfully during these drills.

The switch's administrative personal computer is used to program the system with lists of government agencies and other locations to which hard-copy backups of voice communications are automatically transmitted.

Hard copies are sent based on up to nine levels of prioritization.

Degrees Of Criticality

Nuclear plant emergencies have four categories.

In ascending order of seriousness:

* An "Unusual Event" is a minor, often non-nuclear, incident such as injury to a plant worker or severe weather.

It requires rapid notification via telephone within 15 minutes to two county agencies, two state agencies, and the NRC in Washington.

However, no public action is required, and no hard-copy backups of phone notifications are transmitted.

* An "Alert" is a minor incident that could or does affect reactor safety, creating the possibility of a small release of radioactive material.

This requires activation of on-site technical and operations support centers and rapid telephone notifications but no public action or hardcopy backups.

* A "Site Area Emergency" might be something like a major leakage from the reactor coolant system, and would require activation of the off-site emergency operations facility and emergency news center.

Rapid telephone notifications are backed up quickly with hard copies transmitted by the FaxXchange switch to state and local government agencies and a small number of FPL locations.

The government agencies take action, using sires and an emergency broadcast system to alert the public.

Follow-up notifications are phoned and faxed as plant operating conditions change or public protective action recommendations are made.

Hard-copy media releases prepared for electronic- and print-media reporters are transmitted via the switch to a dozen and a half locations.

These include county and state agencies, NRC, Federal Energy Management Agency (FEMA), industry trade groups, and FPL internal departments and executive management.

* The fourth category, called "General Emergency," is the most severe incident that could affect the off-site population.

It requires all of the telephone notifications, hardcopy backups, and media releases involved in a Site Area Emergency.

If additional help is requested by local counties or if the emergency is multi-jurisdictional in nature, the government may issue an executive order.

The state governor may issue a five-page executive order which is telephoned to government agencies.

Hard copies of the executive order are broadcast to the dozen and a half locations receiving media releases after it is issued.
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Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Florida Power & Light uses facsimile store-and-forward system to transmit hard-copy backups of emergency phone communications
Publication:Communications News
Date:Jul 1, 1990
Previous Article:Tracking a half million calls a month.
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