Plans being made in case of regional power outage

ESCANABA — What happens if multiple counties in the Upper Peninsula are without power for multiple days? An eastern Upper Peninsula power vulnerability workshop exercise is taking place today in Escanaba to create a unified plan between six counties.

“I want to stress there is no emergency, there is no projected emergency, no projected power outage. There is nothing wrong with our electrical system. This is just an exercise in the event to prepare in case there ever was,” said Bob Berbohm, Delta and Schoolcraft counties emergency management coordinator.

The emergency crisis scenario being planned for is a seven to 10 day power outage caused by a substation failing that would impact parts of Delta and Alger counties and all of Schoolcraft, Luce, Mackinac and Chippewa counties.

The agencies involved in the planning exercise are the emergency management coordinators from each of those counties, hospitals from each county, road commissions, law enforcement, American Transmission Company (ATC), Upper Peninsula Power Company (UPPCO), Cloverland Electric Cooperative, and other various energy providers.

“So what we’re looking at is do our plans address the safety of the community, which include shelter, food, water, (and) heat,” Berbohm said.

He added the planning would also look at if there are enough back-up generators to handle a seven to 10 day countywide power outage and how to go about safely restoring power.

Berbohm explained he doesn’t think there are enough back-up generators in any of the counties for normal function needs, like food, water and heat. He said, as planners, it is their task to look at that possible issue and address it.

Each county is not without a plan, however this exercise will create a unified effort plan.

“When you’re talking a seven to 10 day power outage — locally is one thing, but when you’re talking complete counties … that tips the scales to a little bit different,” Berbohm said. “So if I need resources I can call my partners in Schoolcraft, Marquette, Menominee, (and) Luce counties — wherever. But if we’re all effected, where do we get our resources? Because everybody is going to need what they have.”

He explained the planning event will be a way for them to see what works and where improvements can be made.

“So when we look at exercising stuff like this, it’s to open the mind to get us all thinking, (and) it’s to review our plans to make sure that we’re looking deep enough into our plan but yet broad enough,” Berbohm said.

He explained the hope is to reach the point where if something like a multiple day countywide power outage were to occur, the counties could work together as one unified command.

After this exercise, Berbohm said the ultimate goal is to do an exercise like this again but include all 15 counties in the U.P.