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Div. of Media Relations
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(404) 639-3286
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June 5, 2002
Contact: CDC, Media Relations
(404) 639-3286

Press Release

CDC announces new safety training tool to protect lives in underground mine emergencies

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has announced a new computer-based training program to help save miners' lives in underground mine emergencies.

The program, called Mine Emergency Response Interactive Training Simulation (MERITS), is an interactive, multimedia program that simulates underground and surface activity at a mine where a safety crisis occurs, putting miners at risk of death or serious injury. The program places the trainee in the role of the mine superintendent who has responsibility for controlling the emergency and directing the safe, successful rescue of the miners.

CDC's National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health ( NIOSH) will introduce the software at several mining industry conferences beginning June 6. Some of the presentations will include "train the trainer" sessions to instruct individuals and organizations in its use. In turn, users trained in those sessions will be prepared to instruct others. Beginning in July, NIOSH will make the program available free on compact disk and for download from the Internet.

"In a crisis at an underground mine, knowing what to do and doing it quickly is essential for saving lives," noted CDC Acting Director David Fleming, M.D. "NIOSH's new simulation program will provide users with hands-on experience for making the right decisions, based on information from the scientific literature, interviews with veteran mining safety professionals, and observations from real and simulated disasters."

The simulation begins with a routine business day at a mine. Then a problem develops, and the trainee directs the emergency response as the problem threatens to assume catastrophic proportions. This response entails all of the tasks that the trainee would face in directing a command center in an actual situation, including directing traffic control at the site, providing food for rescue workers, and responding to questions and concerns from distraught relatives of miners who have been trapped underground. Each action by the trainee determines the next step in the interactive process. The total program can take from four to six hours to complete.

"The MERITS program is an outgrowth of NIOSH's ongoing cooperative work with industry, labor and other government agencies, and it comes at a time when it is increasingly needed," said NIOSH Acting Director Kathleen M. Rest, Ph.D., M.P.A. "As more and more mining veterans retire, they leave a shortage of mentors to whom their less experienced colleagues can turn for safety advice. MERITS offers an easy-to-use source of institutional safety knowledge to help fill that gap."

NIOSH will introduce MERITS in a presentation on June 6 at the Holmes National Meeting in Virginia Beach, Va., and in a presentation that will include a train-the-trainer session on June 21 at a seminar in Grand Junction, Colo., co-sponsored by the Colorado Department of Natural Resources.

Subsequent presentations will be held at the Annual Institute on Mining, Health and Safety Research on Aug. 11-13 in Roanoke, Va., and with train-the-trainer sessions during the Training Resources Applied to Mining/National Mine Instructor's Conference on October 15-18 in Beckley, W.Va.

For information about attending the training sessions, contact Patricia Henning, NIOSH Pittsburgh Research Laboratory, Pittsburgh, Pa., at (412) 386-6466. The MERITS software, along with a trainer's guide, will be provided to participants at the sessions. For more information about NIOSH's mining safety research, visit the NIOSH website at


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