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1466Teamwork key in mine rescue competition

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  • Rob McGee
    Jul 16, 2004
      Friday,  Jul 16, 2004                            
      Teamwork key in mine rescue competition


      Bill Mehle of the OCi Wyoming Blue Team didn’t feel much pressure at the gas competition as he analyzed and fixed the gauges measuring the amount of four different gases in the atmosphere.

      In fact, after Mehle’s 30-minute test, he was all smiles and ready to compete in today’s team field contest finals. Although Mehle’s goal is to place well in his category, he just enjoys being able to compete.

      “I’m coming here to learn,” Mehle said. “Each year I come in to learn and maybe I get a little bit closer to getting the trophy. My team knows I’m just trying to learn the most I can.”

      The three-day Metal and Nonmetal National Mine Rescue Contest at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center has 29 teams from across the nation competing in simulated emergency situations, testing their skills in the field, gas, benchman and first aid areas. The top 12 teams from the first two days compete in the finals today.

      Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor Mine Safety and Health Administration, the competition takes place every two years. This is the second time the event has been in Reno.

      About 500 attendees are estimated at the contest, said Jim Petrie, district manager of the MSHA Northeastern district office.

      Individuals fix and stabilize breathing apparatuses in the benchman competition.

      Tom Senecal was the benchman competitor for the Newmont Eastern Operations team after nine years of experience with the devices. He had 30 minutes to test and fix any problems with the breathing tanks, vital for mine rescue team safety.

      “Before we go into a mine, we have to check this device,” Senecal said. “My team took turns putting bugs in the machine last night, so I would be ready to repair anything.”

      In the first-aid contests, a three-man team is tested at three stations: CPR, patient assessment and wounds, burns and transportation. The team has 20 minutes to aid the “victim” at each station.

      “All our personnel has to have first-aid training,” said Joel Karasik of the Bechtel SAIC Yucca Mountain team. “We’re working in an underground environment a lot and we have to know how to save people’s lives.”

      Also, the field competition tests six-man teams on their ability to search and map a mine.

      Each team starts at a score of zero. For each contest, deductions are based on inaccurate procedures and time limits. The team and individuals with the least number of deductions will win their category and overall competition.

      “We do this because it keeps our teams ready in an emergency situation,” said Dave D. Lauriski, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. “We hope our teams are never called to do this in real life, but if they do, we want to make sure they are prepared.”

      United States Mine Rescue Association