FORT HOOD, Texas - Post officials here are preparing for a Department of Defense-mandated Energy Resilience Readiness Exercise, providing information about what Soldiers and families here should expect when the lights go out March 15.
“We are doing the Energy Resilience Readiness Exercise to test our backup power systems on Fort Hood,” explained Brian Dosa, director of the Fort Hood Directorate of Public Works. “This is going to give us the ability to test how good our back-up systems are and how we can improve and be better prepared for a natural disaster or terrorist attack.”
Dosa said Fort Hood will be one of only a handful of installations to undertake the exercise, and which leaders were able to select what they believed to be the best date for the power outage. He said they chose for the exercise to be completed during Spring Break, because they did not want any issues for children during school. They also realize that weather during mid-March is mild, so there should not be any need for heating or air conditioning.
On March 15, the power to the installation will go off at approximately 8 a.m. and is expected to be off for eight to 12 hours. During that time, the buildings that have back-up power should automatically switch to a generator within 10 seconds.
Observer/controllers from MIT Lincoln Laboratories will be located in strategic locations across post to observe how the buildings react to the power outage. TC Coffman, DPW Safety program manager, said they will have DPW crews with observer/controllers to observe and learn from the experts. Meanwhile, information on the facilities will be reported to Fort Hood’s Emergency Operations Center throughout the day.
“We’ll be consolidating information on our DPW facilities and how those facilities will be responding to the exercise at the emergency operations center,” Coffman added. “The entire installation, even the units, will have facility managers looking at their facilities and seeing how their facilities are responding to both the power off and the power on.”
Meanwhile, with power off throughout the installation, military police and other troops will be directing traffic at busy intersections. Drivers are advised to treat unmanned intersections as four-way stops.
Dosa explained that units serve as the installation’s Crisis Response Battalion on a rotational basis. The CRB during the ERRE will be a squadron with the 3rd Cavalry Regiment. Besides assisting the military police with traffic, the unit will also have stations set up in all the military housing communities. The stations will provide communication and assistance to the residents, as well as basic first aid care.
Speaking with the hosts of Fort Hood’s Great Big Podcast, Col. Chad R. Foster, commander of U.S. Army Garrison – Fort Hood, said that families with life-health safety concerns who need continuous power generation have been identified. For others who may have life-health safety concerns, the garrison commander encourages them to contact their chain-of-command for assistance.
Coffman also suggested people download a first aid app on their cellphones. The Federal Emergency Management Agency and the American Red Cross have apps with step-by-step instruction for emergencies.
“Since we’re all so attached to our smart devices these days, why not put something truly useful on our smart device,” Coffman added.
While there will be families out of town for Spring Break, Chris Albus, project director for Fort Hood Family Housing, said they are encouraging the rest of the families to join them for a spring clean-up in the communities and parks on post.
Fort Hood Family Housing will also provide lunch for its residents from 11 a.m. to noon at the community centers. Families should register in advance, so there is enough food for everyone. Online registration is located at https://forms/gle/JvFputi62jyRYbHw7. More information about the clean-up and lunch can be found on the Fort Hood Family Housing Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/forthoodfh.
“While this is a DoD-mandated exercise, our primary role will be focusing on business operations during the outage, providing resident experiences to help get residents out of the house for a little fun, and overall ensuring residents know we are here for them,” Albus said.
In addition, the Fort Hood Exchange will have food trucks positioned during the exercise at the Clear Creek Exchange, 1st Cav Express and the 19th Street Express.
Meal card holders can still receive a meal from select warrior restaurants. Ironhorse WR, Patriot Inn WR and Theodore Roosevelt WR will be preparing breakfast and dinner with field feeding equipment and served in to-go boxes for the troops. Soldiers will be given MREs for lunch.
For Soldiers and families with medical appointments at Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center, appointments will still be held. As a medical necessity, CRDAMC will not be affected by the outage. Other areas not affected include Robert Gray Army Airfield, as it is a joint-use airfield that could affect commercial airlines, and the Mission Training Complex, which will be hosting a large training exercise.
Foster said the intent of the exercise is to test the infrastructure, so if too much of the power to the installation is left on, they won’t be able to accomplish that mission.
“When we turn the power back on, I think there could be potentially some areas where the power is not going to come back on exactly,” Foster added. “But the good news is, we’re going to have a pretty robust response team standing by to move out, find the problem and fix it. That’s really what the purpose of this exercise is. It allows us to see ourselves in a way we would not be able to.”
When the power is turned back on, DPW’s work order line will be available for anyone still having issues with their electricity. The phone number is (254) 287-2113.
“We’re planning this pain so we can be better prepared in the future and not have an unplanned outage of any significant,” Foster said. “If an outage does occur for a weather event, we will be much better postured to get ourselves back on.”
Dosa said he is not concerned about power spikes damaging electronics, but those who are concerned may go ahead and unplug electronics just in case.
With regards to food, commissaries will be closed on March 15, and will have sales on perishable food leading up to the power outage. Afterward, it may take several days for the commissaries to build their inventory back up.
Foster also shared that Child Development Centers will be closed from March 14-16. The centers have to take measures to close on March 14 and then prepare the center for reopening.
“There’s a lot of pretty deliberate actions they have to take, so that when they do reopen, everything is safe and to the expectations and standards set by regulations and law,” Foster shared for Soldiers who may have children in the CDCs.
He explained that chains-of-commands are going to be flexible with their Soldiers with children during the three-day period without childcare.
“If you have a major concern going forward, as we approach the day of the exercise, make sure you’re communicating with your chain of command,” he said. “Your chain of command is your first and best step in resolving an issue you have.”
Fort Hood has compiled a list of frequently asked questions, which can be found at https://forthoodpresscenter.com/poweroutage. Soldiers and families are encouraged to contact their chain of command to address any specific concerns they may have regarding the power outage.