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Workshop to explore responses to local disaster

April 29, 2014 | 01:21 PM
What happens after the lights go out?

And not just the lights, but the televisions, refrigerators and other modern-day appliances that rely on the modern power grid?

Lake Geneva Fire Capt. John Peters, and Lake Geneva deputy director of emergency management, wants to make sure everyone in public service and private business knows what they have to do.

The Lake Geneva Public-Private Partnership is sponsoring a disaster response workshop May 14 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the police training room at the Lake Geneva City Hall, 626 Geneva St.

The program is through a $2,411 Homeland Security Program grant and is also sponsored through Wisconsin Emergency Management.

The May 14 simulation will be based on a massive power outage hitting the area on the Black Friday following Thanksgiving, Peters said.

Peters said the date was selected because it will hit everyone in all sectors.

Each participating group will have a table, for example, schools, hotel-motels and local government will all have their own tables.

Peters said the exercise is intended to present the problems posed by a large power outage and to ask the participants: What are your contingency plans?

Peters said a failure in the power grid can cause a cascading effect that could result in a mass failure in human services, unless businesses and local government have contingency plans in place to deal with the failure.

For example, if schools are in session, what does the school district do?

Does it cancel classes and send students home?

Or does it provide a place for students to wait out the crisis?

What do businesses that serve or sell food, that is hotels, grocery stores and convenience marts, do if their refrigeration is down more than one day?

How will banks operate if the power is down and their computers don’t function?

How does a power outage affect emergency services, and are they prepared?

In addition, a simulated Incident Command Post will be established to coordinate the recovery effort.

During the lunch hour, Kevin Lederer, owner of Sprecher’s Restaurant & Pub will talk about his business’ experiences following the fire in October 2013, and how the restaurant was able to recover and reopen.

Lederer is expected to talk about the importance of proper insurance and business plan when disaster affects a business, Peters said.

“That’s very important, because 85 percent of businesses don’t reopen after a fire,” Peters said.

Peterson said a power outage was selected as the emergency because the area has been subject to several outages caused by animals getting into the power system.

 The most recent occurred on the first Saturday in November 2012, when a squirrel got into Lake Geneva’s power transformer behind the Geneva Lake Area Museum.

The unfortunate squirrel caused a power outage that lasted three hours, starting at 10:20 a.m. Power wasn’t restored until about 1:20 p.m.

Despite the outage, however, city services such as sewage treatment, water purification and police and fire protection were maintained. City essential services were kept online with emergency back-up generators that kick in when the power lines go silent.

Businesses coped the best they could. Some stayed open with limited services and some closed down.

The day was unseasonably cold, and city emergency staff considered turning city hall into a heating center for those who needed it.

Power was restored before that became necessary.

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