BY STEPHEN RICKERL
August 23, 2012
Marion, Illinois — A wide open field on a bright summer day might seem like an unlikely place to train for responding to a disaster in a dark cramped coal mine, but mining officials say teams loaded with heavy restrictive gear can always sharpen their skills whether above or below ground.
Nearly 20 mine rescue teams from Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky competed in a mine rescue competition Wednesday outside of the Pavilion of the City of Marion as part of the 120th annual meeting of the Illinois Mining Institute.
Mike Caldwell, president of the Illinois Mining Institute, said the idea of the competition is training. Those who were competing are the same teams that would be called during a real-life emergency or disaster.
A number of simulated mines were staked out in a field behind the Pavilion, and the teams were given identical simulated disasters.
The competition is judged by officials from Mine Safety and Health Administration, who dock points from teams who don’t follow proper procedure or forget tasks.
The teams are made up of workers at the mine who volunteer for the rescue team, and undergo extensive training.
“Not everybody wants to do something like this,” Caldwell said. “It takes a different type of person to be able to want to go down and do that and know that they’re going to be in a dangerous situation. These are the guys willing to risk their lives to save their fellow coal miners.”
Rick Waldeck, safety director of Shay No. 1 Mine in Carlinville and future president of the Mine Rescue Association, is one of those guys willing to risk his life.
Waldeck was part of team that in early 2006 responded to fire in the Crown 3 Mine near Farmersville. No one was trapped or injured in the mine, but Waldeck’s team was charged with locating the fire, which was ultimately squelched with a million gallons of water.
He explained when emergencies arise, the teams fall back on their training, which includes rescue competitions.
“We never thought those circumstances would happen,” he said. “All of sudden these scenarios that were fictitious in our world suddenly came to life.”
The winners of Wednesday’s mine competition from first to fourth place are:
1st - Peabody Coal, Gateway Mine, Coulterville.