It seems crazy for someone to run into a burning or collapsed coal mine, but that’s what mine rescue teams do. Miners and their families alike are thankful for the brave men who make up rescue squads. These are the individuals who risk their lives to save others.
Every coal mine that employs 30 or more workers must have two mine rescue teams comprised of at least seven people per team. Skyline Mine has two such teams who train regularly to keep their skills sharpened in case tragedy strikes.
Mine Safety and Health Administration requires rescue teams to train eight hours monthly. Skyline’s rescue teams comply with the requirement by running through actual emergency scenarios.
Smoke machines provide a realistic setting for rescuers to learn how to maneuver through dense, smoky settings. Team members use a specially designed breathing apparatus called Rebreathers to make their way through these settings. The ventilation system gives operators a four-hour supply of fresh oxygen.
Rescuers are also required to pass physical requirements and must be able to work wearing heavy gear including a breathing apparatus. First aid skills are required of rescue personnel who train rigorously in this field.
Contests are held regularly to highlight mine rescue team’s dedication and hard work. Skyline teams compete in three local contests annually. Competitions are designed to be as realistic as possible. Rescuers make their way through obstacle courses and provide emergency care to mock emergency victims.
The Skyline teams competed in June at the Rocky Mountain Association Mine Rescue event hosted in Price and will compete in Craig, Colo. July 16-18.
According to team trainer Larry Olsen, rescue contests help build camaraderie between teams. This bond is important because many times rescue squads from different mines will work together when an emergency situation occurs.
“It’s all about a community of people throughout the country that are similar to fire fighters and EMT’s,” Olsen said. “Everyone involved are a special, unique breed. It truly doesn’t make sense to be the group of people running back into a burning coal mine.”
Dedication, hard work and bravery make up mine rescue teams. A job that often goes unnoticed, but is appreciated by all miners.