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MSHA News Release No. 97-0909
Mine Safety and Health Administration
Contact: Amy Louviere
Phone: (703) 235-1452

Tuesday, September 9, 1997


It's the kind of announcement a miner dreads most. There has been an underground mine disaster -- an explosion, fire or roof cave-in -- and several workers are missing. They may be trapped and injured -- or worse, they may be dead.

While the disaster isn't authentic, the response is. On Sept. 16-18, 50 of the nation's top mine rescue teams from around the country will gather at the Kentucky Fair and Exposition Center in Louisville, Ky., to compete in the National Mine Rescue, First Aid, EMT and Bench Contest. The event is sponsored by the Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration.

Mine rescue contests are designed to sharpen skills and test the knowledge of miners who may one day be called upon to respond to a real mine emergency. The contest requires teams of six members each to solve a hypothetical problem while being timed and observed by judges according to precise rules. The simulated problem might be a mine fire or explosion, resulting in trapped miners that must be located and rescued.

"Competition of this kind calls attention to the need for the highest standards in mine safety," said J. Davitt McAteer, assistant labor secretary for mine safety and health. "These rigorous exercises help mine rescue teams be ready for tomorrow's emergency by preparing today. Naturally, we hope their skills will never be needed."

In the first aid contest, participants must demonstrate the correct method of caring for an injured miner. Teams are judged on proper application of skills according to the fundamentals of first aid.

In the Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) contest, a primary and secondary EMT tackle reallife scenarios. EMTs are certified and provide an unbroken chain of medical care until the patient arrives at the hospital.

Benchmen are charged with maintaining the rescue equipment. In the bench competition, participants must thoroughly inspect breathing devices that have been purposely tampered with, and they must correct those defects as quickly as possible.

In the mine rescue phase, state and federal mine safety experts will evaluate each team as they work through their rescue problems in a simulated mine environment. Teams are rated on adherence to safety procedures and how quickly they complete their particular task.

The mine rescue contests for coal and metal/nonmetal mine rescue teams are held in alternate years.

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. President William Howard Taft was present at the first national competition.

Schedule of Events
(All contest events begin at 8 a.m.)

Tuesday, Sept. 16 -- First Aid, EMT and Bench Contests

Wednesday, Sept. 17 -- Preliminary Mine Rescue Competition

Thursday, Sept. 18 -- Finalists' Mine Rescue Competition and Awards Banquet

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