MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin’s adjutant general and senior executives from Wisconsin’s electrical utilities signed a charter this spring outlining a growing partnership aimed at effectively preparing for, mitigating and responding to electrical sector incidents.
The charter comes at a time when the Department of Military Affairs and Wisconsin utility companies have worked collaboratively on a number of exercises incorporating physical and cyber threats to the state’s power grid as well and the state’s response to long-term power outages.
The public-private partnership brings together the Wisconsin Department of Military Affairs, which includes Wisconsin Emergency Management and the Wisconsin National Guard, and the following utility companies: Alliant Energy, American Transmission Company, Madison Gas and Electric, WEC Energy Group, WPPI Energy and Xcel Energy. The goal of such a partnership is the effective sharing of information and working collaboratively to ensure the integrity of Wisconsin’s critical electrical infrastructure.
In March 2015, the Wisconsin Department of Military Affairs and Wisconsin utility companies formally established their partnership, and in 2017, the Wisconsin Utilities Coordination Group was established to support joint planning and formalize a system to coordinate activities during an emergency.
Over the past year, the Department of Military Affairs conducted a number of exercises with its utility partners, including GridEx in November 2017 and the annual SIMCOM exercise in February 2018. The upcoming Dark Sky exercise slated for later this month at sites across the state represents the culmination of those efforts and an opportunity to conduct a full-scale exercise that simulates a long-term mass power outage that tests the abilities of utility company partners, law enforcement, first responders and the National Guard to respond to the scenario as well as its second and third order effects.
“I am grateful for the ongoing public-private partnership cultivated between the Wisconsin Department of Military Affairs and our utility company partners,” Maj. Gen. Don Dunbar, Wisconsin’s adjutant general, said. “Our electrical grid is of critical importance to our state’s safety and security, and this partnership ensures that the key players are communicating effectively and working collaboratively to best serve the people of Wisconsin.”
The charter outlines a set of non-binding agreements and an enduring partnership to encourage collaboration among the partner organizations, serves as a mechanism to develop long-term solutions to achieve a common operating picture, establishes the means to identify, plan and execute collaborative grid response and resiliency exercises and ultimately ensure the security of the state’s critical electrical infrastructure.