2012 Southeastern Illinois Mine Rescue Skills Contest

Competition simulates real mine rescues
The Southern
September 22, 2012

HARRISBURG — Southeast Illinois Community College’s first time hosting a Mine Rescue and Safety Competition on Friday was not so much about miners besting one another, but about learning and enhancing safety skills.

“It provides a good overall aspect to learn the job.  It’s a lot better than being in a real situation and having to learn then,” said John Templeton from Peabody Energy’s Gateway Mine in Randolph County.

There were six teams from 10 local mines, including Kentucky, that joined in the cooperative event between SIC and Illinois Eastern Community College.

It was described by state mining officials as “the first of its kind” competition, with participants using skills in putting out fires in simulated mine tunnels, hosing and first aid, as well as other mine rescue techniques.

“This is the first skills competition in Illinois.  This is new and what everyone is gearing up for in the future.  (Mine Safety and Health Administration) is pushing all of this.  This will probably be permanent in three years,” said Kim Underwood of Illinois Eastern Community College.  Underwood was an underground coal miner for many years with Zeigler Coal Co.

One of the miners competing in the events, Matt Geralds of Prairie State Generating Co., said the situations provided at each team skills competition “makes you think on your feet and not assuming the other person knows.”

In the smoke tunnel and tower area that tested firefighting, mapping and other rescue skills, Preston Britton of Gateway emerged from a fiery enclosed tower that team members had to search and find a dummy.

Britton looked relieved he had accomplished something he had never experienced before in his five years on the job.

“We couldn’t see anything.  It was really hot.  I was nervous going in.  But it was a great experience,” Britton said.

One of his teammates, Dan McLean of Prairie State Lively Grove, was responsible for mapping once the team members entered the fiery structure.

“I had to map everything we encountered.  You can only see a couple feet in front of you.  We were connected to each other by a tag line,” McLean said.

“This … gives you more perspective and gives exposure to real-life situations for younger miners,” said Tom Patterson, a Peabody Energy supervisor for its Willow Lake/Wild Cat Hills mines.
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