Energy exercise puts base infrastructure to the test

  • Published
  • By Jaima Fogg
  • 88th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- An Energy Resilience Readiness Exercise was conducted earlier this fall to provide a controlled environment in which to evaluate and understand gaps if the installation were to be separated from commercial power.

The 12-hour exercise took place on Area B and involved cutting power from the off-base electric grid.

Officials said the goal was to determine how well missions, systems and facilities could perform autonomously without backups such as generators and uninterruptable power sources. The backup systems were put to the test to determine capabilities if power was unexpectedly lost.

“Just because you have a generator does not mean it will work,” said Dustin Hoehn, 88th Civil Engineer Group energy manager.

A major exercise benefit is the ability to control circumstances. Power can be restored immediately if needed and further investigation conducted on systems in a noncritical timeline without risking the mission.

Systems such as heating and cooling or water and sewer are critical, so base organizations were asked to play out the exercise as if it were real-world and identify how they would respond to an extended power outage in order to keep their missions going.  

“We weren’t setting out to break things for the sake of breaking things,” Hoehn said. “The planning team worked with organizations to assess risk to mission partners, follow a risk-management strategy, build an exercise scope and implement risk-mitigation measures in order to execute the exercise smartly.”

It was up to each organization and its director or commander to identify how to handle the exercise. Wright-Patterson Air Force Base’s Energy Office challenged partners to come up with solutions that would work for their individual organization’s needs.

“This was really an exercise for the mission partners,” said Noah Fillian, 88 CEG energy management chief. “Each mission owner had to treat this exercise as if real-world, and they all do it differently.”

A core planning team began preparations in January to coordinate with Area B’s mission partners and facilities so the exercise would have as little interruption as possible.

The Energy Office headed up the exercise and the core planning team was comprised of personnel from civil engineering, inspector general, information protection, operations, safety and public affairs. The team worked with the 88th Security Forces Squadron, 88th Communications Squadron, civil engineering technicians who performed the power switch, and commercial-utility representatives from American Water and AES Ohio.

Planning team officials said it was important to sit down with base partners and ask for their major concerns related to infrastructure, mission and safety and how the organization would respond to a loss of power for up to 12 hours.

The feedback included ensuring risk-mitigation measures such as prepositioning generators at the gates and emptying sanitary sewer stations to prevent overflow were implemented before the exercise began.

The exercise identified immediate and long-term changes that need attention at Wright-Patt, officials said. This allows base organizations to investigate and properly fix issues before an unexpected power loss.

“Some changes we have already implemented and improved, and some of the things we’ve found will take larger investments to plan, program and seek funding,” Fillian said. “This will drive investments for the next few years right here at Wright-Patt.”

The Energy Office praised cooperation between mission partners and the planning team. The exercise was considered a successful operation.

Oct. 13 was selected as the exercise date to best avoid extreme weather and not put systems, equipment and personnel at risk, officials said. It also coincided with Energy Action Month.

The Energy Resilience Readiness Exercise is part of a larger Air Force initiative to showcase energy’s essential role in assuring combat capability and readiness.