FORT CARSON, Colo. (KRDO) – From 2 p.m. until 10 p.m. Wednesday, Fort Carson conducted a "Black Start Exercise" to test the facility’s emergency response and backup generators to help simulate a large-scale power outage.
The Mountain Post staged a similar exercise on a smaller scale, earlier this year but this is the first installation-wide event.
Officials said that the previous exercise went well, helping them to find gaps in their preparation; all military installations are required to conduct similar exercises.
"Turning the power off, and then gradually turning it back on without disrupting systems or the post's missions here, it's a challenge," said Doug Homa, of Fort Carson's Department of Public Works. "We have from 100 to 150 people involved."
Fort Carson officials said that it endures power outages by Colorado Springs Utilities several times annually.
“It’s always a consideration," said COL Sean Brown, the post's garrison commander. "I’ve said that weather is one of the reasons that we may lose power. A cyber-attack is another vector for a power outage. Fortunately, we haven't had that happen yet, but we need to be prepared for it. We operate 93 critical systems here."
The exercise observed how the installation runs its Emergency Operations Center during a crisis situation, like a loss of power that could last up to several days.
"Normally, we can shift to our backup generators within an hour -- sometimes in as little as ten minutes," Homa said. "We're designed to run on backup power for 24 hours."
Beyond that, Brown said that it's a matter of being able to refuel the generators before they shut down.
Fort Carson officials said that installation services continued during the exercise but accessing them might have taken longer than usual.
"Among our critical services are traffic signals, Evans Army Hospital and housing for soldiers and their families," Brown explained. "So, this is something that affects the entire Mountain Post community to some degree, and everyone can learn from this exercise. We can't control what causes power outages, but we can be ready for them."
Brown said that to provide more reliable and efficient primary power, the utility will eventually install one of six natural gas-fueled generators on post; those generators were installed at the former Drake Power Plant last year after its decommissioning.
After the exercise ends, Fort Carson will evaluate it with the utility and the Department of Defense.
Officials had hoped that Tuesday's storm would have continued Wednesday and provided more of a challenging test, but the bulk of that storm had already passed.
For tips to prepare for a major power-outage, as well as other important preparation information, visit the Fort Carson Facebook page by clicking the link here.