FORT CARSON, Colo. — The Department of Defense has indicated that the U.S. homeland needs to maintain access to reliable, resilient cybersecure energy resources. Power generation assets and distribution infrastructure are critical to all DOD assets.
DOD Installations around the world and across the country are tasked with performing Black Start Exercises to measure their resiliency and counter the threat of power blackouts, outages and possible sabotage.
0n April 26, 2023, the commercial electricity supplied to Fort Carson by Colorado Springs Utilities was disconnected at approximately 1:30 p.m.
At that instant, Fort Carson Garrison Emergency Operations Center leadership and personnel went into action responding to and initiating a real-world, large-scale power outage exercise.
With only the blue light emanating from over 30 workstation monitors, the EOC was dark and under the watchful gaze of BSE evaluators as EOC partners pressed on with the mission.
To communicate procedures, log discrepancies, report delays and coordinate priorities, garrison leaders leaned in shoulder-to-shoulder to collaboratively work each power restart issue and stay ahead of any issues that may arise.
The EOC team communicated with the Fort Carson Directorate of Public Works operations and maintenance through a limited online network and battery powered handheld UHF radios.
The cold restart tested the electrical power infrastructure that critical operations and training depend on to help protect the nation’s interests and provide power to facilities and services that Soldiers and their Families need.
The end state of the Black Start Exercise is to restore power as quickly as possible to the installation and continue training and supporting global missions.
“It’s designed to test our backup generation systems for 93 critical facilities on Fort Carson, and it gives us the opportunity to rehearse our procedures in the event of a power outage,” said Brown.
To prepare for the BSE exercise, the Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization, and Security authored a readiness and recovery plan and led several working group sessions to inform, prepare, respond and gather feedback from senior Fort Carson leaders.
Initial sessions focused on the possible effects and impact the BSE exercise would have on the electrical infrastructure and the day-to-day operation of Fort Carson in the event of a power outage.
The BSE incorporated best practices into a framework and these prior planning workgroups provided guidelines, definitions and, more importantly, evaluations and timely responses to lessons learned.
During an intense moment in the EOC, DPTMS director, Jim Rice said, “what you’re witnessing here is a dedicated staff of battle fighters working together to restore power to continue our mission,”
Beyond the routine efforts put forth in preventative, maintenance, checks and services of 4th Infantry Division, tenant units, Soldiers, Airmen and Fort Carson garrison DPW technicians, the Black Start Exercise immediately identified dependability and discrepancies of new and established electrical grid components, downstream power storage systems and large static and mobile backup generator systems.
Substation stability, power to facilities, barracks, and family housing units were closely monitored to ensure they were back online quickly.
The BSE exercise challenged the Fort Carson community to prepare on multiple fronts. Supporting the power outage exercise, the Fort Carson Garrison Public Affairs Office created an electronic and print communication strategy and disseminated public service announcements on social media, featuring subject matter experts from vital departments and delivering preparedness information with the legacy method of creating flyers that were placed on the front doors of occupied housing units by Soldiers and Balfour Beatty staff to inform occupants how to prepare for a real-world power outage.
“Just the preparation process for the Black Star Exercise really got the tenant units, Soldiers and their Families thinking about what they would do and that’s half the battle,” said Brown.
While most non-critical facilities were back on within minutes and hours, there were a few troublesome circuits that required additional attention. Power was fully restored to the Mountain post at approximately 11:55 p.m.
Preparedness was the key factor for Fort Carson during the Black Start Exercise, and the current buzz around post is that the installation and community continued the mission and the nation’s business with minimal complications and complaints.
The Fort Carson Garrison command group and planning team anticipate positive marks for successfully managing this critical exercise, upping the standard for the best hometown in the Army.