A group of 65 employees at OPPD’s Nebraska City Station (NCS) power plant share the responsibility of covering operations 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
They supply fuel to the plant, operate the equipment that produces electricity, and continuously monitor conditions to ensure the plant is safely meeting the demand. They wear a lot of hats to execute their duties, but perhaps the most unexpected one is a firefighter’s helmet.
NCS is nestled alongside the Missouri River, about eight miles southeast of the city center. The nearest municipal fire department has a 20-minute response time to the plant, so an on-site fire brigade was created before construction was even complete on units one and two at the plant. The brigade’s responsibility is to prepare for and respond to plant emergencies to safely protect people and equipment.
Though not activated often, the brigade responds to emergency calls that include fires or chemical management following equipment failure, spontaneous coal activation, or nearby brush fires approaching the property.
The NCS fire brigade recently held its annual training in the weeks leading up to National Fire Prevention Week, which runs October 8-14 this year. You can see the brigade in action in the video and photos below.
The brigade must be ready to respond to an emergency with a moment’s notice at any time of the day. This is why the same crews that are always on site are required to be brigade members. Volunteers are also welcome.
“Electricity production can be dangerous if not executed properly,” said Chris Romaire, senior instructional technician and fire brigade trainer. “Having an on-site fire brigade is one of many tools OPPD uses to safely and reliably produce power.”
This was Romaire’s last year to lead the training exercise. He plans to retire next year.
“I’ll miss my coworkers most,” he said. “I enjoy getting everyone ready and making sure that they’re safe and prepared for this job. Sometimes people don’t wear this equipment for a year. This preparation is so important.
“If I see someone is uncomfortable, it might seem weird but I’ll keep them in the training fire longer. I’ll talk to them and challenge them a bit more until they find their confidence.”
Having a dedicated fire brigade is unique to NCS. Similar generation facilities, such as North Omaha Station, are located closer to municipal fire departments and partner with their staff for regular education and trainings.
The NCS fire brigade trains regularly to ensure their equipment and knowledge are in top shape. While the fire brigade members don’t prepare for the wide variety of scenarios that career or volunteer firefighters do, they must thoroughly understand the same equipment and fire and hazardous materials management. They also need a thorough understanding of the facility, equipment and materials on site.
“Being on the fire brigade goes hand in hand with my normal job, really,” said Andrew Lingerfelt, equipment operator. “One thing I really love about it is that no day is exactly the same. It’s a lot of responsibility, but it’s satisfying, rewarding and pays well.”
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