Mining Publication: U.S. Bureau of Mines Technology Applicable to Disaster Response, Urban Search And Rescue
Since 1910, the U.S. Bureau of Mines (USBM) has investigated practical ways of dealing with the consequences of major fires and explosions in underground mines. The results of this research have had a significant positive impact on the mining community by enhancing mine workers chances of surviving an underground mine disaster. Today, the Bureau continues to conduct research in mine disaster mitigation. Much of this work has direct application to search and rescue situations, such as: emergency evacuation through smoke-filled or otherwise unbreathable atmospheres, locating and rescuing survivors from rubble piles, and fire fighting in confined spaces. Three USBM research areas are discussed:(1) Life Support -- This effort is directed toward research into and development of closed-circuit breathing apparatus for use in hazardous environments which are likely to be encountered in the aftermath of a mine disaster. (2) Trapped Miner Location -- A mine disaster may result in the entrapment of miners whose normal escape routes are cut-off. This research activity resulted in the development of transportable seismic technology that can be used to locate trapped miners. (3) Mine Fire Diagnostics - This research involves developing practical techniques for remotely monitoring how the atmosphere inside a mine changes during a fire, in order to estimate the spread and severity of an underground fire. This information is critical in deciding how best to fight a mine fire, or whether it is safe to mount a rescue and recovery mission.