By Airman 1st Class C. Todd Lopez
DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. (Nov. 12, 1999) -- Dover Air Base experienced a planned power outage Tuesday as part of a Y2K readiness exercise.
The power was turned off to test the base's ability to operate during an unlikely potential power outage due to the year 2000 rollover, midnight Dec. 31. The date presents a potential problem because some computer chips controlling power systems may contain a programming error causing them to interpret the date 2000 as 1900.
The 436th Civil Engineer Squadron began shutting down base power about an hour after the start of the duty day, and most base facilities experienced a total power loss from 9 a.m. to noon.
"At 8:15 a.m. we shut down power in the dorms," said 1st Lt. William Flood, Base Y2K Office. "The Fitness Center and Communications Squadron storage area were shut off around 8:30 a.m. At 9 a.m., we shut down the base's main circuits."
The exercise was conducted during the duty day so the outage would affect as many base operations as possible, to test their ability to operate without electricity.
Base offices and facilities were able to function when portions of the base electrical grid were shut off.
"Every squadron has a contingency plan to relocate as needed, to one of their own facilities that has backup power," said Flood. "For instance, the 3rd and 9th airlift squadrons relocated to the Base Operations building to continue their operations."
Another squadron, the 436th Mission Support Squadron, relocated to Building 203 during the power outage.
"The training we have been working on up until the exercise went smoothly," said Senior Airman Darren James, 436th Mission Support Squadron, Personal Readiness Unit.
"We went in and did what we needed to do. We did orders manually for 65 people; there was no work stoppage."
"Our section has been preparing for nearly a full year," he said. "We came up with Y2K procedures, and implemented a Y2K book for in house use. This exercise showed our procedures are in place and ready to go."
While the majority of base facilities were without power during the three-hour exercise, some facilities did maintain power.
According to the Base Y2K Office, certain facilities, such as the Commissary; the Base Exchange, the Child Development Center and the Patterson Dinning Facility were intentionally left on. Base Housing also retained full power during the simulated outage. Other base facilities had power because they are equipped with backup generators.
According to civil engineers, nearly 60-mission critical facilities on base are equipped with such generators. These facilities include the 436th Security Forces Squadron, the firehouse, the command post, base weather, base operations, the control tower, airfield lighting, the hospital, various sewage and water pumps, and the base telephone system.
While the base power outage exercise demonstrated to Dover Team members the potential the Y2K glitch could have on Dover Air Force Base, according to Flood, base residents should not be concerned.
"Although unlikely, the worst case scenario is the power goes out and stays out," said Flood. "But we will be able to continue the mission. The base and the Air Force in general, have spent months preparing for Y2K. People will need to use common sense and follow the information guide we have created."
The information guide contains checklists base residents can use to prepare for potential Y2K problems. It will be available at the Y2K Town Hall Meeting Wednesday from 7-9 p.m. at Welch Elementary School.
The meeting will open with remarks from Col. Neal Mills, 436th Airlift Wing vice commander, and will feature community representatives from the Dover City Manager's Office, fire, sewer, electric and police services, the Federal Credit Union, Fort Sill National Bank, Bell Atlantic, Bay Health, the American Red Cross, and base finance. Col. Frank Schreck, 436th Support Group commander, will discuss how the base plans to house and feed base residents in the case of an extended power outage.
"We feel sure this town hall meeting will be extremely informative and I encourage all Dover Team members and their families to attend," said Flood.