Refuge Chamber Training Products and Guidance

After several major mine incidents in 2006, the Mine Safety and Health Administration issued new regulations requiring enhanced and more frequent self-rescue and escape training. Among other provisions, 30 CFR 75.1504(c)(3) requires that miners receive annual instruction on the deployment and use of refuge alternatives, including:

  • deployment and operation of the refuge alternative used at their operation, and
  • when to use refuge alternatives during a mine emergency, with emphasis on using them as a last resort when escape is impossible

To help instructors teach miners about the use of refuge chambers, NIOSH has developed a suite of training modules covering:

  • operations - how to operate a refuge chamber
  • decision-making - what alternatives to consider when deciding whether to enter a refuge chamber
  • expectations - what to expect physiologically and psychologically when seeking shelter in a refuge chamber

NIOSH has also put together a suggested one-year plan for refuge chamber training.

By completing this training, miners will be better prepared to make educated decisions during emergencies such as fires or explosions, and better understand the purpose and use of refuge chambers.


The Refuge Chamber Training Modules

Introductory Overview

Emergency Escape and Refuge Alternatives - A brief introductory Microsoft® PowerPoint® presentation that provides an overview of what miners need to know about emergency escape and the use of refuge chambers. This module consists of 10 slides and an instructor's guide.


How to Operate a Refuge Chamber: A Quick Start Guide - This module has a customizable 26-slide template for trainers to use in instructing miners on the type of refuge chambers installed at their mine. The training explains the four fundamental steps to operating refuge chambers in underground coal mines. Unlike the other training modules, this module is not a ready-to-use, off-the-shelf product. Due to the variety of chambers on the market, trainers must supplement the basic template with information specific to the type of refuge at their mine.

Decision Making

Harry's Hard Choices: Mine Refuge Chamber Training - In this paper-and-pencil decision-making simulation, miners work through a real-life scenario that teaches them alternatives to consider when deciding whether to enter a refuge chamber.

When Do You Take Refuge?: A Computer-Based Training Module - This computer-based training simulation lets trainees choose from among multiple courses of action when faced with escaping a mine fire (such as entering a refuge chamber or escaping alone). The simulation is a branching exercise that offers three possible sets of choices for trainees depending on their initial courses of action.

Man Mountain's Refuge: Mine Refuge Chamber Training - This paper-and-pencil exercise teaches miners important decision-making points for escaping and using a hardened room refuge chamber. The exercise covers escape strategies and procedures including choice of routes, use of emergency breathing apparatus, information gathering, communication, ordering priorities, and making life and death decisions when faced with a hostile environment. The exercise also provides information and discussion points on traumatic incident stress.

Additional Guidance for Trainers

Recommendations for Refuge Chamber Operations Training - This module provides an overview of major topics to cover when teaching miners how to operate a refuge chamber. It includes a list of the "Top 20" things miners need to know about operating refuge chambers.

Guidelines for Instructional Materials on Refuge Chamber Setup, Use, and Maintenance - Provides recommendations for refuge chamber manufacturers on how to develop an effective training manual to teach miners how to set up, inspect, move, use and maintain refuge chambers. It also includes a list of items refuge chambers should contain and discusses seven essential topics that all manuals need to address.

Suggested One-Year Training Plan

Although it is very important that miners understand all three types of information about refuge chambers, you cannot accomplish the needed training all at once. There is simply too much important information for most people to comprehend and remember in one sitting. Cover the topics in a series of training classes that are spaced over time.

The table below shows one possible way to conduct refuge training over the course of a year. We suggest starting by using "Emergency Escape and Refuge Alternatives" to provide an introductory overview of what miners need to know about emergency escape and refuge alternatives. Following this overview, trainers should provide in-depth training about how to operate the specific types of refuge chambers or alternatives in use at their mine. To help prepare for this training session, trainers may want to review the materials available from their refuge chamber manufacturer, as well as "Guidelines for Instructional Materials on Refuge Chamber Setup, Use, and Maintenance", "How to Operate a Refuge Chamber", and "Recommendations for Refuge Chamber Operations Training". This is enough material for the first training session.

The second training session could address some of the decision-making aspects of when to use a refuge alternative. Use any of the three decision-making exercises for this session ("Harry’s Hard Choices", "When Do You Take Refuge?" or "Man Mountain's Refuge"). Devote the third training session to the expectations training module. The fourth training session could be devoted to one of the other two decision-making exercises. Toward the end of each training session, trainers should always set aside a little time for reviewing and evaluating the miners’ ability to recall previously presented information about refuge chambers. Based on these knowledge checks, conduct remedial training as needed.

Page last reviewed: December 28, 2023
Page last updated: December 28, 2023