This paper discusses social and technical factors associated with underground coal miners' reactions to their operation's warning message system. The authors conducted in-depth interviews with workers who escaped a major fire at their mine and have identified specific junctures at which individual interpretation and response became particularly problematic. It is concluded that the implementation of a few relatively simple human factors principles could have improved the efficacy of warning communication systems at that mine. Since the delay between flame propagation and a decision to evacuate is one of the most important variables in assessing survival chances, these improvements could have invaluable payoffs for other operations as well.
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