Power Outage Planning and National Exercises

Wiltshire and Swindon Local Resilience Forum (WSLRF) regularly hold exercises to see how planning and plans themselves hold up under as near to life scenarios as possible. 

Last year and early this year WSLRF was part of a large-scale county wide exercise around loss of power. The scenario was loss of national power due to adverse weather conditions. It’s important to remember that whilst this was the scenario, so much of the planning for wide scale loss of  power can be translated into local power outages.   

The exercise consisted of bringing together all our partner organisations and the community, which resulted in just under 200 hundred people taking part and seeing how they continued to operate and deliver critical services to keep our public safe. 

To set the scene, the facilitators of the exercise wrote local scenarios of events that could happen in our geographical area to challenge participants so that they could, metaphorically speaking, stand up and respond to resolve the issues presented.        

The objectives of the exercise for WSLRF were to test:- 

  1. How we communicated when we lost power and what forms of communications we could use as partners. 
  2. How our community could be resilient, we tested the concept of setting up Emergency Contact Hubs. 
  3. How we operated together as a partnership
  4. How our existing command and control structures in Fire, Police, Ambulance and all other responders would continue to operate and keep our Wiltshire and Swindon safe in adverse conditions. 
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We used the Government Communication Tool effectively to  communicate and receive regular updates.  We also used this same tool to speak to our neighbouring Strategic sites in Local Resilience Forums  (LRFs) and maintain contact.  Bear in mind that in a large-scale power outage all mobile phone signals and usual ways  of communicating would stop working. 

During these calls we were able to have situational updates from our utility companies, health organisations and other agencies who would not be able to travel safely when all power goes off.  Alternatively, those same partners may cover such a large geographical footprint that they could not attend all LRF areas.  This testing was extremely useful. 

The Emergency Contact Hubs is a concept that we had already  trialled locally. For the exercise we were able, with the support of a local community, to set up an Emergency Contact Hub.  The  community ran their hub proficiently and effectively for a 2-day period.  Because of their commitment, determination and engagement, Wiltshire and Swindon will be able to take this model and role it out to other communities and parishes as a model of what “good may look like”. There’s no perfect model!

As with any exercise, there is always learning that can be taken away and improvements that can be made to processes. Each one of our partners that participated in the exercise were able to take back their own learning into their organisation, to better prepare them for a loss of power scenario.    

Overall, the exercise scenario has helped us prepare as a partnership of responders, plan for the future and to protect our communities.