Dark Sky exercise prepares for long-term power outage

OUTAGAMIE COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) - A statewide simulation of a massive power outage is due to take place Tuesday through Thursday, but don't worry, your lights will be staying on.

As we first reported a few weeks ago, agencies across the state will train in the event cyber hackers shut down the power grid.

The National Guard is leading the training exercise known as Dark Sky, and more than 1,000 from agencies across the state and even federal agencies will take part.

Officials want to stress this is just a training exercise, in case you notice a high military presence this week.

“It brings us together from the local level , which would be the Town of Grand Chute, the City of Appleton, all the way to the county level to the Emergency Management Office, other counties, Winnebago, Brown, Calumet, with the state, Dane, Fond du Lac. We've been planning for 18 months,” said Rob Olsen, the Outagamie County Emergency Management specialist.

Olsen said it will be as realistic as possible but it's purely a simulation, training how each agency would communicate with each other, treat anyone who needs medical attention, and reach out to federal agencies for help.

“This is important to ensure that all of our plans are in place. We know how to talk to each other when we have to, and how do we talk to each other when we can’t? How do we get messages out to people when you guys have no power to broadcast the message? How do we get messages in from the public if we have no power, whether it be the media or we have phone lines that don't work, how do we get messages and request services?” said Olsen.

When there's no way of communicating, there's a Mobile Response Unit for all the agencies to have a chance to communicate with each other, using amateur radio.

During the simulation the role of volunteers with the Mobile Response Unit will be to help get messages out.

“We have some public service radios on this end, so we will share the trailer with professionals with (Wisconsin) Public Service, emergency management. We have amateur radios on this end. We have a dual band VHF-UHF radio for pretty much local, another one for local,” said Stan Piekarczyk, Wisconsin AIRES/RACES East Central District emergency coodinator for amateur radio.

In Omro, you may also notice National Guard members going door to door to practice welfare checks.

This is only a simulation and will not involve actual power outages.

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