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NPPD sets dates for eight public hearings on proposed R-Project transmission line

October 17, 2014

Columbus, Neb. – A series of eight public hearings on Nebraska Public Power District’s R-Project 345,000-Volt Transmission Line are scheduled to be held during the first two weeks of November. The hearings will be held in eight counties where the line route has been selected, with each meeting having a one-hour open house prior to the formal hearing.

NPPD plans to construct approximately 220 miles of transmission line from the District’s Gerald Gentleman Station, south of Sutherland, to a new substation to be constructed in Holt County. Besides the new substation in Holt County, a new substation will also be built at a location near Thedford. NPPD has not determined a final line route for the project.

This new transmission line will help enhance operation of NPPD’s electric transmission system, relieve congestion from existing lines within the transmission system, and provide additional opportunities for development of renewable energy projects.

The public hearings will be held at various locations November 4, 6, 10, and 12. The following schedule has been shared with landowners along the final route:

Tuesday, November 4 – Logan County Fairgrounds, 71 Highway 83, Stapleton; open house from noon to 1 p.m.; public hearing from 1 to 3 p.m.

Tuesday, November 4 – Holiday Inn Express, 300 Frontage Road, North Platte; open house from 6 to 7 p.m.; public hearing from 7 to 9 p.m.

Thursday, November 6 – Thomas County Fairgrounds, 83861 Highway 83, Thedford; open house from noon to 1 p.m.; public hearing from 1 to 3 p.m.

Thursday, November 6 – Brewster Community Center, 250 Garfield Ave., Brewster; open house from 6 to 7 p.m.; public hearing from 7 to 9 p.m.

Monday, November 10  American legion, 657 G Street, Burwell; open house from noon to 1 p.m.; public hearing from 1 to 3 p.m.

Monday, November 10 – Loup County Community Center, 406 4th Street, Taylor; open house from 6 to 7 p.m.; public hearing from 7 to 9 p.m.

Wednesday, November 12 – Wheeler Central High School (new gymnasium), 214 5th Street, Bartlett; open house from noon to 1 p.m.; public hearing from 1 to 3 p.m.

Wednesday, November 12 – Chambers Community Center, 107 E. Main Street, Chambers; open house from 6 to 7 p.m.; public hearing from 7 to 9 p.m.

The public hearing, required under Nebraska statutes, are conducted to present the proposed transmission project. A hearing officer will facilitate the hearing and a court reporter will be used to document all presentations by Nebraska Public Power District and landowner comments and questions.

The first part of the public hearing consists of presentations on the project by Nebraska Public Power District and its engineering consulting firm, Power Engineers. The topics will include the need for the project, engineering aspects, line route selection, and the easement acquisition process. Once that portion of the hearing is completed, the public will have an opportunity to speak.

Any individual can supply testimony or ask questions about the line project in two ways. One way is for the individual to speak from the podium, state their name and county where the property is located, and either present information that they feel is needed about the project, or ask questions about the project. Comment cards will also be available for landowners who prefer not to speak at the podium, but desire to make a statement or ask a question. The comment or question will be read aloud during the hearing.

Prior to each formal public hearing, NPPD will host a one hour open house similar to the previous three rounds that have been held since January of 2013. Again, this will be an opportunity for the public to provide additional information regarding their property or ask specific questions about the project. NPPD representatives will also be available following the public hearing to meet with landowners.

Once the public hearings have ended, a 30-day comment period begins and will conclude December 12, 2014. Shortly after that, NPPD will announce the final line route and begin meeting with landowners for right-of-entry to conduct activities on the property. The initial activities include conducting surveys of proposed easement areas and proceeding with appraisal work. After engineering is completed, right-of-way agents will meet with landowners to fully explain the project as it relates to their specific property and explain terms and conditions of the easement needed for the line. NPPD strives for fair and respectful treatment of affected landowners during the entire process.

(Editor’s Note: Additional information on the R-Project including newsletters and a map of the proposed and alternative routes can be found at www.nppd.com/rproject.)

Cooper Nuclear Station addresses maintenance outage issue

October 13, 2014

Columbus, Neb. – Shortly after 7 p.m. Saturday evening, October 11, while shut down for a planned refueling outage, specialized contract technicians at Nebraska Public Power District’s Cooper Nuclear Station in Brownville were performing a planned, underwater control blade “shuffle” where certain blades are replaced and others moved to new locations in the reactor core. One of the control rod blades fell from the lifting tool and came to rest atop the reactor vessel top guide in a section that contained no fuel.

Personnel responded appropriately, suspending all activities in the area to inspect and evaluate the fuel. NPPD is working with the contractor on an investigation as to the cause of the incident. The control blade was successfully and safely removed and placed in the proper location in the spent fuel pool early Monday morning. There was no increase in radiation exposure to workers, and at no time was the public at risk from the incident.

As part of its regular protocols, Cooper’s leadership informed the Nuclear Regulatory Commission resident inspectors onsite and confirmed there were no indications of any adverse impact to the station’s fuel or radiation levels.

“This refueling outage is the 28th one we have performed at Cooper in 40 years,” said NPPD President and CEO Pat Pope. “Every maintenance outage can be accompanied by challenges. Our Cooper team remains focused on ensuring a safe work environment for personnel, adherence to procedures, proper job briefs and work oversight, as well as a commitment to completing the work in a manner that protects our employees and the public.”

Cooper’s control rod blades, approximately 14 feet in length, are x-shaped elements that occupy alternate spaces and separate the fuel assemblies throughout the core and are positioned axially within the core to control reactivity as part of the primary power generation system. The equipment plays a central role in plant safety by providing the principal means of quickly and safely shutting down the reactor during online operation. During refueling and maintenance outages, the reactor is shut down, which allows for these components to be removed and replaced.

This year’s refueling and maintenance outage utilizes a team of employees and contractors totaling 1,600 people expected to complete close to 4,500 work activities, including the replacement of approximately one-third of the fuel assemblies in the reactor core with new fuel rods to operate the plant for another two years.

Muddy Creek to Ord transmission line project open house events scheduled by NPPD

September 22, 2014

Columbus, Neb. – Two open houses will be hosted by Nebraska Public Power District next week concerning the development of a line route for a new 115,000-volt transmission line from a new substation, to be called Muddy Creek and located near an existing transmission line east of Broken Bow, to an existing substation near Ord. The line will enhance the reliability of the transmission network in the immediate area.

The two open houses will focus on gathering information from landowners who have property within a study area that has been developed by the District.  The first open house for the 42-mile long line will be held September 30 at the Broken Bow City Auditorium, 314 S. 10th Avenue, in Broken Bow. A second open house will be held on Wednesday, October 1, at the Exhibit Hall at the Valley County Fairgrounds, 801 S Street, in Ord.

Project representatives will be available to discuss this project at the Open Houses from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. Attendees should allow at least 45 minutes to walk through the displays and provide landowner information.

The new line will play a vital role in enhancing the reliability of the transmission system in central Nebraska where NPPD had voltage and loading issues in 2012, according to NPPD Chief Operating Officer Tom Kent. “A prolonged period of high temperatures in July 2012 combined with drought-like conditions, resulted in NPPD setting a record for peak electrical load needed by customers of 3,030 megawatts,” he explained. The result was that NPPD’s transmission system in the central part of the state was stretched to the limit during the record load period.

Over the past two years, NPPD has temporarily located additional mobile generators in the central part of the state during the summer months in order to help maintain reliability of the transmission system.

The need for the line was identified through the Southwest Power Pool’s transmission planning process, which is performed annually to assess system upgrades. The approximately $34 million transmission project is expected to be in service in June of 2018. Along with the transmission line work, the project also includes upgrades to the existing Ord substation and construction of a new substation east of Broken Bow.

Landowners in the study area have been sent invitations to attend either of these two open house events. NPPD officials noted that no routes have been determined at this time. At the open houses NPPD will collect information from landowners on land use, pivots, wells, planned facilities, residences, and other information. Each landowner will have the opportunity to identify this information and have it recorded into a GIS system that will be used in developing potential corridors for the lines.

“We invite landowners to come to either open house and give us information about their property, future plans, unique situations, locations of pivots and wells,” said Senior Project Manager Mike Hasenkamp. “This is valuable information that allows the project team to develop a line route that will minimize the overall impact.”

Additional information will be available on the need for the project, the route selection process, right-of-way activities, easement compensation, engineering, and environmental considerations.

The open house is one phase of NPPD’s comprehensive public involvement process that is used on its transmission line projects. To develop line routes for the project, NPPD will meet extensively with the public to obtain comments and other valuable information needed for the route-siting/decision making process, beginning with the public open house sessions. NPPD will use a variety of communication methods to interact with area landowners; local, county, and state government officials; and representatives of appropriate regulatory agencies.

The upcoming round of open houses will be the first of four rounds of public informational meetings NPPD plans to host. The first three rounds will be open houses and the fourth round will be a required public hearing.

For more information on the project, visit the website at www.nppd.com/muddycreek-ord/, or call the project hotline at 1-888-677-3412.

‘Look up and around’ during harvest season

September 19, 2014

Electrical safety important, says NPPD

Columbus, Neb. – Husker Harvest Days have passed and farm equipment will begin moving into local fields making this one of the busiest times of the year for Nebraska farmers. It’s also a time to look up and around, according to the Nebraska Public Power District.

“Looking up and around when working in the fields this harvest season is important,” explained NPPD Transmission and Distribution Manager John Humphrey. “Taking a few minutes to look for overhead electric lines may be life-saving time well spent.”

Before taking to the fields, NPPD and its wholesale public power partners urge farm workers to be aware of overhead power lines and to keep equipment and extensions far away from them. “Electrical equipment around the fields, such as power lines in the end row areas, may get overlooked during this busy time of year,” Humphrey added. “However, failure to notice overhead power lines can be a deadly oversight.”

That is when farm equipment can accidentally become entangled in the power lines. Remaining inside the equipment until help arrives is critical to everyone’s safety. Humphrey said that those involved in harvesting work should understand any contact with power lines carries the potential for a serious or fatal accident, and should understand that electricity can arc to the equipment if it comes close to the line.

“It’s almost always best to stay in the cab, call for help, and wait until the local electric utility arrives to make sure power to the line is cut off. If the power line is energized and you step outside, your body becomes the path and electrocution could happen,” Humphrey said. “Even if a power line is on the ground, there is still the potential for the area nearby to be energized. Stay inside the vehicle, unless there’s fire or imminent risk of fire.”

If you must exit, the proper action is to jump – not step – with both feet hitting the ground at the same time. Jump clear, without touching the vehicle and ground at the same time, and continue to shuffle to safety, keeping both feet together as you leave the area.

“Like the ripples in a pond or lake, the voltage diminishes the farther out it is from the source,” Humphrey pointed out. “Be sure that at no time you or anyone touches the equipment and the ground at the same time. Never should the operator simply step out of the vehicle — the person must jump clear.”

As a rule of thumb, NPPD asks farm workers to routinely look up and look out for overhead power lines, Humphrey explained. He also urged farm workers to heed these additional safety measures:

  • Each day, review all farm activities and work practices that will take place around power lines and remind all workers to take precautions.
  • Know the location of power lines and, when setting up the farm equipment be at least 20 feet away from them. Contact your local power provider if you feel this distance cannot be achieved.
  • Use care when raising augers or the bed of a grain truck. It can be difficult to estimate distance, and sometimes a power line is closer than it looks. When moving large equipment or high loads near a power line, always use a spotter to make certain contact is not made with the line.
  • Always adjust portable augers or elevators to their lowest possible level – under 14 feet – before moving or transporting them. Variables like wind, uneven ground, shifting weight, or other conditions can combine to create an unexpected result.
  • Be aware of increased height when loading and transporting larger modern tractors with higher antennas.
  • Never attempt to raise or move a power line to clear a path!
  • As in any outdoor work, be careful not to raise any equipment such as ladders, poles, or rods into power lines. Remember, non-metallic materials such as lumber, tree limbs, tires, ropes, and hay will conduct electricity depending on dampness and dust and dirt contamination.

“With good planning, looking up and looking out, we can all have a safe harvest season,” he added.

Editor’s Note: More information on harvest electrical safety can be found at http://www.nppd.com/energy-education/farm-safety/.

A video concerning the same topic can be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dIjIYq6BoNc&list=UUyGw38lIj6YRaQmLQCeZ1xw

NPPD reminds drivers: be safe around construction

September 8, 2014

Hoskins to Neligh transmission line

Columbus, Neb. – Construction of a new transmission line in north central Nebraska is scheduled to begin around Sept. 15, and Nebraska Public Power District wants to spread the word reminding the public to think “safety” first.

“Ensuring safety for our employees and the general public is always our number one priority,” said NPPD Vice President and Chief Operations Officer Tom Kent. “Power line construction activities can mean an increase in large equipment on roadways and possible congestion near construction sites. We’re advising drivers and spectators to be cautious and help us avoid accidents.”

The Hoskins to Neligh line is a 39-mile, 345,000-volt transmission line, running generally east and west, a few miles north of U.S. Highway 275. The new line will run from the District’s Hoskins substation, about five miles northeast of Norfolk, to a new substation approximately four miles northeast of Neligh. In addition, four 115,000-volt transmission line segments will be routed from the new substation near Neligh to existing transmission lines.

Once completed, the new transmission lines will enhance operation of NPPD’s electric transmission system and provide additional opportunities for development of renewable energy projects. Specifically, this project will help meet consumers’ electricity needs in north central Nebraska.

First stage of construction for the new transmission line will be tree cutting along the line route. Soon after that, materials, including large power line structure segments and other equipment, will be delivered to the project.

“With corn still in the fields, visibility at intersections can be adversely impacted,” said Project Manager Jedd Fischer. And once harvest begins, roads could become very busy, he added. “Slow down. Be careful. And look out for farm and utility equipment on the roads,” Fischer said.

For more information or questions regarding the open house, please email powerline@nppd.com or call 1-888-677-3412.

 

Note to Editors/News Directors: Maps of the study area can be viewed at http://www.nppd.com/hoskins-neligh/maps/.

Wells Fargo Nebraska Open continues to raise funds for Nebraska community colleges

September 8, 2014

Columbus, Neb. – A golf event with an educational purpose returns next Thursday, when the 23rd annual Wells Fargo Nebraska Open tees off at the Elks Country Club in Columbus.

This annual event kicks off at noon with the annual Pro-Am event that raises money for scholarships awarded to students attending one of Nebraska’s community colleges in Nebraska Public Power District’s service territory. It is anticipated that more than $75,000 in scholarship money will be presented to the Central Community College Foundation this year from this year’s tournament.

Scholarships are distributed to 11 community campuses in the Central, Mid-Plains, Southeast, Northeast, and Western Community College Systems. Each year, sponsorship money and entry fees from golfers are divided between the tournament purse and the Community College Foundation.

“It is a tremendous event that provides opportunities for students attending Nebraska Community Colleges to get an education, stay in the state, and earn a living in professional and rewarding careers,” said NPPD President and CEO Pat Pope.

According to the CEO of the Nebraska Section of the PGA, David Honnens, “Golf professionals from across the United States come to Columbus every year to play in the Wells Fargo Nebraska Open. Not only is the tournament known for its solid reputation and challenging competition, it is also the largest golf event in the state of Nebraska.”

The event is a stepping stone to professional careers, with 2010 and 2011 champion Peter Malnati currently ranked 178th on the PGA Tour. Past champions Jim White (2005), Justin Herron (2006), Nick Mason (2007) and Wil Collins (2012), are expected to participate. Nebraskan’s Scott Gutschewski and Steve Friesen, who have won championships on the Web.Com tour, will also be competing.

Endorsed and administered by the Nebraska Section of the PGA and the Nebraska Golf Association, the 54-hole tournament is conducted with an anticipated purse of over $70,000 for a field of PGA of America members, apprentices, other professionals. The tournament also includes a potential $3,000 purse for amateurs. The Elks Club has hosted the event since 1992.

More than 50 businesses are sponsoring this year’s event, with many participating in Thursday’s 18-hole pro-am scramble with professional golfers.

Wells Fargo returns for the eleventh year as the title sponsor, along with national, regional, and Columbus-area companies such as Behlen Mfg. Co., Curry Relocation Co., Eakes Office Plus, Kelly Supply Co., Nebraska Energy Federal Credit Union, U.S. Bank, Pinnacle Bank-Columbus, Hughes Brothers, and Ernst Auto Center and Ernst Toyota.

The three-day professional-amateur tournament begins on Friday, Sept. 12 and concludes Sunday. Play begins at 8 a.m. Friday and Saturday and at 9 a.m. Sunday.

Last year, Ryan Dillon of New River, Ariz. came from behind on the strength of six birdies, including one on the final hole, to win the 2013 event. Paul Mohr of Scottsbluff captured the amateur division and Jim White of Lincoln captured the senior professional division.

New transmission line approved by NPPD Board

August 21, 2014

Between Broken Bow and Ord

Columbus, Neb. – Citing a need to reduce voltage and loading issues on Nebraska Public Power District’s transmission system in central Nebraska, NPPD’s Board of Directors recently approved a resolution authorizing initial planning and engineering work for the public involvement process for a new, 115-kilovolt transmission line.

The new line will enhance the reliability of the transmission network between a new substation, to be called Muddy Creek, located between Broken Bow and the existing wind farm northeast of the community, to an upgraded substation near Ord. The line is estimated to be 42 miles in length.

“This new line will play a vital role in enhancing the reliability of the transmission system, particularly in central Nebraska where we had voltage and loading issues in 2012,” explained NPPD Chief Operating Officer Tom Kent. “A prolonged period of high temperatures in July 2012 combined with drought-like conditions, resulted in NPPD setting a record for peak electrical load needed by customers of 3,030 megawatts. NPPD’s transmission system in the central part of the state was stretched to the limit during the record load period.”

Over the past two years, NPPD has located additional mobile generators in the central part of the state during the summer months in order to help maintain reliability of the transmission system.

The need for the line was identified through the Southwest Power Pool’s transmission planning process, which is performed annually to assess system upgrades. The approximately $34 million transmission project also includes upgrades to existing substations and is expected to be in service in June of 2018.

NPPD will begin its public involvement process for the Muddy Creek to Ord transmission project later this year. This process, which utilizes a series of open houses, provides an opportunity for landowners to learn more about the project and for NPPD to gather details about their property in order to determine the best route available with least impact to landowners. The open houses provide information to the public about the need and benefit for the project, structure types, right-of-way acquisition, and routing criteria.

NPPD warns customers about phone scams, gives tips for what to do and what to ask

August 15, 2014

Columbus, Neb. – There have been an increased number of phone scam incidents reported this week to the Nebraska Public Power District by NPPD customers. Incidents in Kearney and O’Neill have prompted NPPD to advise all customers, statewide, to be wary of suspicious calls.

Customers have reported receiving scam calls from individuals stating that they are with ‘the electric utility’ and they are collecting for a past due amount on an electric bill. They state the bill must be paid immediately or the power will be shut off. Sometimes the scammer’s caller-identification is falsified so it appears to originate from the utility company, a practice known as ‘spoofing’.

In the case of a Kearney customer, the caller advised to go to a local store, purchase a “green dot” or pre-paid card, then contact the caller with the card information.

In O’Neill, NPPD customers have been told there would be a ‘meter upgrade’ or a power outage, situations that sound like utility business, but when questions are asked, the caller hangs up or puts the customer on hold.

To help customers be wary of such scams, NPPD offers the following tips and suggestions:

  • NPPD, as a business practice, does not call to ask customers for a credit card number.
  • NPPD does not demand payment with a pre-paid card.
  • Any customer receiving such a call should not attempt to make payment over the phone.
  • Write down the call back number or consider asking where the caller is located.
  • Contact law enforcement.
  • Let NPPD’s Centralized Customer Care Center at 1-877-ASK-NPPD (877-275-6773) know about the call.
  • If served electrically by a rural public power district or municipality, customers should contact that organization before providing any type of payment.

“Unfortunately, these scams take place every year throughout the country,” said Vice President of Customer Services Ken Curry. “Anyone who receives such a call should not let their guard down. Instead, know that NPPD offers a variety of payment plans to help customers who may have challenges paying their bills, and inform local law enforcement of the incident.”

Open house set for Stegall-Scottsbluff transmission line

August 11, 2014

Scottsbluff, Neb. – With a focus on preferred and alternative routes for its Stegall to Scottsbluff transmission line project, Nebraska Public Power District will hold an open house on Wednesday, Aug. 20 at the Gering Civic Center, 1050 M Street in Gering, from 2 to 8 p.m.

This will be the third open house on the project by NPPD since January 2014. Since then the project team has been reviewing public comments and meeting with various agencies while working to narrow the initial study area down to corridors, and now to preferred and alternative routes. Project Manager Jedd Fischer noted, “Although we have preferred and alternative routes for this project, no final route has been determined. We will continue to gather additional comments from landowners and various agencies before making a final determination.”

The Stegall to Scottsbluff project consists of routing and siting a new 115,000-volt electric transmission line from NPPD’s existing Scottsbluff substation, to a new substation to be built approximately five miles south of Stegall, near an existing substation operated by Basin Electric Power Cooperative. The line length is estimated to be 23 miles and expected to be in service by mid-2017.

Attendees should allow 30-60 minutes to walk through the displays and interact with NPPD representatives.

The open houses are held to allow landowners the opportunity to learn more about the project, including the need and benefit for the project, structure types, right-of-way acquisition, and routing criteria, as well as provide NPPD staff with information about each landowner’s property.

“The Stegall to Scottsbluff transmission line will strengthen electric reliability in the Panhandle region of Nebraska and we encourage landowners who have been identified to attend and provide us with comments on the preferred and alternative routes,” NPPD Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Tom Kent explained.

“We have had good turnouts at our first two open houses,” Fischer added. “We do encourage all landowners along the routes to attend and make comments related to their specific property. Even if a landowner has been to a previous open house, new, more detailed information is available regarding the project.”

Fischer also noted that there has been a misconception that NPPD plans to use lattice-style, steel towers as the structures to support the line. “NPPD plans to use a combination of single pole and H-frame structures made of steel. There are no plans to use the large lattice-style, steel structures,” he explained.

The Stegall to Scottsbluff transmission line project was identified by the Southwest Power Pool (of which NPPD is a member) as a line that will enhance transmission system reliability in the western Nebraska Panhandle region, and meet the North American Electric Reliability Corporation’s Reliability Standards.

For those who are unable to attend the open house in person, an online open house meeting will be available at www.nppd.com/stegall-scottsbluff, beginning Aug. 20. Abbreviated information, maps and drawings from the open house will be available, and landowners will have the opportunity to provide comments. Landowners can also share their feedback by e-mailing powerline@nppd.com or by calling the project hotline at 1-888-677-3412.

SingleCircuit Steel H-Frame

Editor’s Note: Attached are photos of the types of structures that NPPD has planned for the Stegall to Scottsbluff line.
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NPPD responds to questions over NWS messages

August 4, 2014

Computer systems accentuate importance of emergency system operation

Brownville—Owning a nuclear power plant involves safely maintaining and operating an industrial facility for the purpose of generating electricity. But it also means protecting the public by preparing for emergencies that could, but are unlikely to, happen at the plant.

To do that, personnel from the Nebraska Public Power District and its nuclear power plant, Cooper Nuclear Station, works with a multitude of agencies – from Atchison County in Missouri and Nemaha County in Nebraska, to the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency and State of Missouri Emergency Management Agency, to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission – all in an effort to provide a collective and unified response of information.

Mid-afternoon on Sunday, Aug.3, the public’s preparedness was tested by a message inadvertently issued by the National Weather Service (NWS). NWS issued the false message at 3:48 p.m., then sent a correction at 4:01 p.m. and placed a message explaining the error on its website. The counties of Atchison and Nemaha also issued corrective communications to the public via Facebook and a press release.

As part of its emergency response efforts between NPPD, the counties and the states, NWS will broadcast alert messages to the media, various agencies and the public. In Sunday’s instance, NWS personnel were updating the wording programmed in the computer system, and the message was mistakenly issued.

Unfortunately, it was the second inadvertent message about emergencies for Cooper sent out in two weeks. On July 24, NPPD personnel were troubleshooting the computer system associated with a siren in Nemaha County when a false alarm was broadcast. 

“Computer systems are supposed to make us more efficient, accurate, and proactive in protecting the public. Unfortunately, they recently have caused confusion,” said NPPD President and CEO Pat Pope. “NPPD asks the public around the plant for its patience and understanding. Work on these computer systems is being done to help – not hinder -  our emergency planning and response activities.” 

NPPD practices its emergency response efforts by conducting drills or exercises at each of its generation facilities, including Cooper. The drills and exercises conducted at Cooper are more extensive, involve multi-state, county and local agencies and also involve practice on disseminating public information.