Mining Publication: A Study of First Moments in Underground Mine Emergency Response
Researchers at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) conducted seven focus groups and 10 individual interviews to gather data on what happens in the first crucial moments of a mine emergency. The goal of the project was to learn about responses on-site during the initial phases of a mine emergency to further improve response. The subjects represented underground coal and salt mines in the southern, western, mid-western, and eastern parts of the United States. They included on-site responders, mine rescue team members, and experts in mine emergency response with extensive experience in managing mine disasters. The types of disasters the subjects experienced were diverse, including explosions, fires, and inundations (sudden floods of water or inrushes of dangerous gases). This study was unique in its focus on the first moments in an emergency response, in studying underground coal mine emergencies and in utilizing a focus group methodology. Results indicated that there were common themes in initial response, which included the importance of mine emergency planning and training, quantity and quality of communication providing information for decision-making, leadership and trust, plus individual personal issues. Previous relevant studies are presented and the researchers discuss the data providing specific examples. The article concludes with recommendations to enhance initial response in the first critical moments of an emergency.