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Energy emergency exercise an overwhelming success

Municipality Of Anchorage’s energy crisis exercise helps the city plan and prepare “There is nothing more important than protecting the safety of the people along the railbelt.” With those words Municipal Manager, George Vakalis, kicked off the Municipality’s energy crisis exercise last Thurs.,, Oct. 27. More than 60 representatives from local, state and federal agencies and private organizations walked through Anchorage’s plan for a loss of natural gas pressure during the winter.

The focus of the exercise was to address a catastrophic malfunction of equipment causing interruption of natural gas service to large portions of the Municipality. The exercise is a critical piece of Anchorage’s Office of Emergency Management’s pre-crisis planning and preparation that begins before winter sets in and continues until break up each year. Even though an energy crisis has not happened in Anchorage, the OEM’s policy is to prepare for the worst so that the city will be able to respond rapidly and effectively if and when a crisis occurs.

Planning and preparation began in early October with working groups involving key organizations and the launch of the Energy Watch campaign for public alert and information, and will continue through next year’s Alaska Shield statewide exercise in February. Alaska Shield, a full scale exercise involving emergency management, responders, and other agencies across Alaska, will simulate an energy crisis and will provide the organizations involved the opportunity to get ‘life-size’ practice in responding to this type of disaster. Pre-crisis planning and exercises help the city identify hazards, risks and consequences of an emergency.

For example, ENSTAR stated that residents impacted by a gas outage could be without natural gas for seven days or more. In that situation, the Municipality is prepared to open shelters and warming centers to aid affected families and individuals.  Another interesting fact revealed during last week’s exercise was the enormous amount of diesel fuel that would be needed if certain facilities lost their natural gas supply. Anchorage School District facilities, according to Gardner Cobb, ASD’s emergency manager, require approximately 210,000 gallons of fuel per week for just 18 of their schools.

Municipal Light & Power Plants 1 & 2 would require nearly 400,000 gallons of diesel fuel each day. Toshiro Morgan from Inlet Petroleum Company spoke regarding the supply of diesel fuel readily available in Anchorage and said that there was more than enough fuel stored locally to meet the city’s needs.

Residents of Anchorage, Kenai Peninsula and the Mat-Su Valley can help reduce the risk of an energy crisis by paying attention to the Energy Watch campaign and following the suggestions provided when an energy crisis seems to be developing. If residents are alert to the Energy Watch campaign and cooperate by reducing their energy consumption, an energy crisis can usually be averted.

For more information about Energy Watch and severe winter weather preparedness, go to muni.org/oem

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