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FP&L changes procedures after landscaper is shocked

Florida Power & Light has changed how it handles life-threatening emergencies after workers took 30 minutes to cut power to a line shocking a landscaper.

Pedro Grave hung in a tree 30 feet off the ground, screaming for help, after a branch he was cutting fell onto a power line Feb. 16.

Because of the current going through Grave and the tree, rescue workers were unable to help him for nearly 30 minutes as they waited for FP&L workers to shut off the electricity.

The utility said that starting Tuesday it would use an automated code to connect 911 dispatchers to more experienced call takers if someone is in contact with a power line, injured or trapped by a downed power line.

"We thought we had a system in place that addressed our needs, but obviously it broke down at some point," said West Palm Beach Fire Chief Ray Carter. "We just tweaked the system that is in place."

Tapes from 911 dispatch show that two FP&L call takers failed to understand the urgency of Grave's situation.

Less than two weeks later on Feb. 26, an FP&L call taker took 13 minutes to dispatch workers to a woman trapped in a car surrounded by downed lines in St. Lucie County.

A similar situation occurred Dec. 11 in Pinellas County.

Despite five calls 911 operators made to a Florida Power Corp. dispatcher, it took a crew 37 minutes to shut off a 7,200-volt power line that prevented rescuers from possibly saving a trapped motorist. Andrew Miller, 21, died from injuries after a crash at Starkey Road south of East Bay Drive.