PALM BEACH GARDENS — To prepare for the 2008 hurricane season, Florida Power & Light is strengthening its structures across the state, including those near 49 hospitals. Ten of them are in Palm Beach County.

Late last month, workers outside of Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center set up a concrete feeding pole to replace the current wooden one.

The pole can withstand up to 150 mile-per-hour winds, and will run down a 2.2-mile long corridor starting at the medical center and ending near West Palm Beach.

“It’s a full hardening of the infrastructure,” said Sarah Marmion, an FPL complaints spokesperson. “Now we’re hoping to have more consistency in the area and if the power goes out, we’ll be able to reset the power faster.”

Hospitals and medical centers like the one in Palm Beach Gardens have a back-up generator grid, but they are still subject to power outages, according to David A. Petit, CEO at the medical center.

“It’s a big day, because now in the case of an outage we’ll be able to keep the entire center powered not just in main areas such as ICUs and patient rooms, and hopefully bring things back to normal much sooner.”

It took workers 15 minutes to set up one pole on May 28. They planned to put another 75 of them in place in the next couple of months. 

Though wooden poles can sustain the same winds, concrete poles are that much stronger and worth the high investment to place them near important city centers.

Hugh Holson, an engineer with FPL, said it takes a lot of planning ahead to consider where they will place concrete or wooden feeding poles.

FPL says it is also strengthening power lines that serve grocery stores, gas stations and pharmacies in communities along main thoroughfares across the state.

“We hope we don’t have a power outage,” Marmion said. “But you never know.”

Before the storm approaches

1. Monitor official weather bulletins on:
• Radio
• TV or
• National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration weather radio.

2. Keep extra cash on hand. An extended power outage may prevent you from withdrawing money from automatic teller machines or banks.

3. Review evacuation routes in case you must evacuate.

4. Contact a veterinarian or kennel to arrange for safe sheltering for your pet if you must evacuate. Public shelters do not accept pets.

5. Fill your vehicle's gas tank.

6. Bring loose, lightweight objects such as lawn furniture, inside. They can act like missiles when picked up by heavy winds.