Power outage: Simulation tests garrison response

By Scott Prater, Fort Carson Public Affairs OfficeAugust 26, 2022

Power outage: Simulation tests garrison response
FORT CARSON, Colo. — Fort Carson directorate leaders and subject matter experts collect data and information while deciding on appropriate actions inside an Emergency Operations Center that was set up in response to a simulated power outage during Mountain Guardian 22 Aug. 16, 2022. (Photo Credit: Scott Prater) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT CARSON, Colo. — Fort Carson conducted its annual Full-Scale Exercise at various locations on post Aug. 16-19, 2022.

The event, dubbed Mountain Guardian 22, was designed to test on-post organizations’ corroboration, communication and response to a large-scale crisis situation. In past years, exercise leaders have tested the installation’s response to simulated natural disasters, aviation crashes and active-shooter scenarios. This year’s event measured how the installation could respond to and recover from a large-scale power outage.

On Aug. 16, 2022, event planners simulated a traffic crash. As part of the scenario, a vehicle crashed into an electrical substation near Titus Boulevard on the post’s south side. A power outage then subsequently impacted the entire south side of the installation, including Butts Army Heliport, Gate 19, Fort Carson Range Control, the 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team and the 4th Infantry Division Headquarters area.

Fort Carson leaders responded by setting up an Emergency Operations Center (EOC) and began working with Colorado Springs Utilities to rectify the situation.

The EOC included leaders and staff of the Fort Carson operations team, the Directorate of Emergency Services, the Directorate of Public Works and various subject matter experts. In response to the simulation, EOC decision makers partnered with Colorado Springs Utilities to augment generator capabilities; they set up a shelter for impacted residents and advised both on-post motorists and residents on proper actions.

“In day-to-day operations, we normally wouldn’t operate in the same room,” said Col. Sean M. Brown, commander, U.S. Army Garrison Fort Carson. “But, during an emergency type scenario, we come together into the Emergency Operations Center. That allows us to coordinate more closely with each other and flatten decision making. All of the people with information that impacts decision making are present in one location. The sooner we can make more decisions more rapidly, the better.”

Annual full-scale exercises allow Fort Carson to evaluate emergency response plans, identify capability gaps and refine processes so that in the event of a real catastrophic situation, the installation is ready to respond while continuing to care for Soldiers and Families. This training is a culmination of smaller exercises completed by the garrison staff throughout the year to ensure the post is prepared to respond to any potential emergency situation that may arise.

“Power outages are fairly common along the front range,” Brown said. “So, this is something that we do experience from time to time. And, we have various plans, depending on the scope and scale of the power outage. If it’s limited to a few buildings, we have the ability to react ourselves, but if it’s more widespread, we have to involve a lot more of our community partners. And of course, if it’s terribly widespread, that may become more of a state or even national emergency.”

Leaders and EOC personnel also performed after-action reviews often.

“After the exercise, and actually during the exercise, we collect feedback from ourselves,” Brown said. “We study those things that went well; we set out a plan to maintain those things and then we look at those things that didn’t go as well as they could have. We dissect and figure out how we can do it better and then encapsulate that so the next time we experience a similar situation we’ll have the benefit of lessons learned from our exercise.”

Next year, post leaders are planning to incorporate some sort of fire scenario, which will allow decision makers to exercise preparedness for community Families.