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MSHA News Release No. 99-0614
Mine Safety and Health Administration - USDOL
Contact: Amy Louviere
Phone: 703-235-1452

Released Monday, June 14, 1999

Mock Disaster Enables Rescue Teams to Practice Within Setting of Controlled Chaos

Nothing gets the adrenalin pumping like a crisis situation, especially when preceded by long hours of emergency training and preparation. When a fire breaks out in an underground coal mine, when miners become trapped by a collapsed roof, or when the danger of a methane explosion hovers in the air, specially trained teams of men and women are quick to respond.

Mine rescuers are highly trained specialists with life-saving skills they hope they'll never need to use. On June 16 and 17, 22 of the nation's top mine rescue teams from seven states will compete in the Ohio Valley Mine Rescue Contest. The two-day event will take place at the Belmont County Fairgrounds, 100 Fair St., St. Clairsville, Ohio. (Teams listed separately.)

Mine rescue competitions are designed to test the knowledge of miners who may one day be called upon to respond to a real mine emergency. The contest requires six-member teams to solve a hypothetical mine emergency problem -- such as a fire, explosion or cave-in -- while judges rate them on their adherence to safety procedures and how quickly they complete specific tasks.

"When you watch a mine rescue contest, you cannot help but marvel at the physical and emotional effort these men and women expend," said J. Davitt McAteer, assistant labor secretary for mine safety and health. "Never mind that it's a staged emergency. These contests are treated like the real thing, because mine rescue teams never know when they'll be called upon to rescue their colleagues who have become injured or trapped underground."

In other phases of the competition, benchmen -- those individuals charged with maintaining rescue equipment -- must thoroughly inspect breathing devices that have been purposely tampered with and must correct those defects as quickly as possible. In the Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) contest, a primary and secondary EMT tackle real-life scenarios. EMTs are certified and provide an unbroken chain of medical care until the patient arrives at the hospital.

Mine rescue training began in the United States in 1910, the year the U.S. Bureau of Mines was created. Joseph A. Holmes, the bureau's first director, sought a training vehicle that would provide the mining industry with a cadre of mine rescue specialists who would be prepared to respond to mine disasters. The training efforts evolved into local and regional competitions and, a year later, a national contest. This year's national competition will take place Sept. 21-24, 1999, in Louisville, Ky.

Activities Schedule

June 16
8 a.m. -- Mine Rescue Contest begins

June 17
8 a.m. -- Bench Contest begins
9 a.m. -- EMT Contest begins

Participating Mine Rescue Teams

OHIO

Southern Ohio Coal, Meigs No. 31
Morton Salt, Fairport Mine

WEST VIRGINIA

Eastern Associated Coal Corp., Federal No. 2
Consolidation Coal Co., Blacksville No. 2
Consolidation Coal Co., Shoemaker Mine Rescue Team
Windsor Coal Co., Windsor
A.T. Massey Coal, Elk Run Team
U.S. Steel Mining Co., LLC, Pinnacle
Mingo Logan Coal Co., Moutaineer Mine Rescue Team

PENNSYLVANIA

Cyprus Emerald Resources Corp., Cyprus Emerald
Consol Pa. Coal Co., Bailey Team
Cyprus Cumberland Resources Corp., Cumberland Mine
Consolidation Coal Co., Dilworth Mine
Consol Pa. Coal Co., Enlow Fork Mine Rescue Team

KENTUCKY

Consol of Kentucky, Inc., Consol of Kentucky Team
Lodestar Energy, Inc., West Ky. Team
Arch Coal, Inc., Lone Mountain Processing Team

ILLINOIS

The American Coal Co., Galatia Mine Rescue Team
Peabody Coal Co., Marissa Team

VIRGINIA

Consolidation Coal Co., Buchanan No. 1 Mine Rescue Team

ALABAMA

Jim Walter Resources Inc., No. 7 Mine
Drummond Co. Inc., Shoal Creek