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A recent exercise proved the Wisconsin Department of Military Affairs could function solely on back-up generator power for more than two days straight. Continuity of operations is critical in an emergency. Wisconsin Department of Military Affairs photo by Vaughn R. Larson

MADISON, Wis. — If a recent exercise is any indication, the Wisconsin Department of Military Affairs could maintain operations for several days without issue in the event of a power grid failure.

The department, which administers the Wisconsin National Guard, Wisconsin Emergency Management, and the Office of Emergency Communications relied completely on its generator systems for 53 straight hours Sept. 9-11 before re-connecting to the power grid. Department of Military Affairs officials directed the exercise in hopes of testing the agency’s ability to maintain full-scale operations and emergency services during an extended power outage.

The result was a resounding success as the department drew a full unreduced load of power from power generated onsite without sacrificing any capabilities. Maj. Gen. Donald Dunbar, Wisconsin’s adjutant general, urged other state agencies to follow suit in testing their own back-up plans to ensure continuity of state government during such a scenario.

“Testing the resilience of the Wisconsin Department of Military Affairs back-up power system was an important step in validating our ability to deliver support and emergency assistance during a major emergency,” Dunbar said. “We saw first-hand the effect that extended power interruptions could have on state government when a fire at a Madison power generating station affected multiple state agencies in July. As a state, we need to ensure we’ve tested our resilience and prepare to continue the functions of state government.”

The Wisconsin Department of Military Affairs maintains multiple generators on its premises with multiple sorts of fuel to ensure resilience in the event of a commodity shortage or transport issues. The exercise also tested the department’s accountability procedures, as department section marshals had to periodically ensure accountability of all personnel and equipment during the course of the three-day exercise.

“We believed we could survive off the grid, but now we’ve validated that capability,” Dunbar said. “We can continue operations indefinitely and continue serving the people of Wisconsin as long as we have fuel.”

Dunbar said that the Wisconsin Department of Military Affairs, which also houses the state’s emergency operations center, is now exploring what other agencies and how many additional personnel it can support in the event that other state agencies would need to establish operations at its facility during a long-term power disruption.