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 Post subject: Chilean Mine Rescue Raises Bar for Local Teams
PostPosted: Sat Nov 06, 2010 7:15 am 
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Joined: Thu Apr 02, 2009 7:16 pm
Posts: 479
Location: Anthracite Region of PA
Chilean mine rescue raises bar for local teams
By Mia Light (Staff Writer)Published: November 6, 2010




The miraculous rescue last month of 33 miners trapped underground in a Chilean coal mine for 68 days has raised the bar of expectations for rescuers who respond to underground emergencies.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection's Bureau of Mine Safety and students in Penn State University's energy and mineral engineering program are reaching to meet those expectations.

DEP emergency response and training manager Jeffrey Stanchek and four student members of the Penn State mining rescue team took part in a meeting Thursday at Valley Country Club, Sugarloaf Township. Local members of the Pennsylvania Anthracite section of the American Institute of Mining Engineers Society of Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration hosted the event.

Stanchek gave an overview of differences between horizontal bituminous and vertical anthracite mining methods, which helped to further illustrate the particular difficulties emergency responders might encounter in an anthracite mine rescue operation.

The group toured a fully equipped mine rescue vehicle, which Stanchek brought to the site from DEP's Tremont rescue station. The mobile command center vehicles are equipped with almost $500,000 worth of state-of-the-art rescue equipment including thermal imaging cameras, portable panels that inflate to lift 10 tons of rock, and re-breather apparatus that provide rescuers with up to four hours of life-sustaining air during rescue operations.

The Penn State mine rescue team members - Drew Mason, Ben Klein, Ryan Mauser and Patrick D'Elia - demonstrated how to don the self-contained breathing apparatus and how to strap a rescued victim to an immobilizing backboard for transport out of the mine.

The mining engineering students recently traveled to Missouri to compete in a mine rescue competition against 12 other teams from six states, including 10 professional and three collegiate teams.

The competition was sponsored by the U.S. Mine Safety & Health Administration, the Missouri Mine Rescue Association and Missouri S&T. It is the only mine rescue contest to take place in a real-life mine environment.

Each team put their emergency response preparedness skills to the test in three separate challenges: the first aid competition, the technician's competition and the mine field test.

The Penn State team, which was organized just this year, earned 10th place in the mine field test, beating two professional mine rescue teams.

John Ackerman, chairman of the Pennsylvania Anthracite section of the Society of Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration, said he is encouraged by the dedication and enthusiasm of the engineering students.

"We need these young kids to replace us older engineers," Ackerman said.

According to Stanchek, it's a passing of the torch.

"We are going to need more engineers in the mine engineering (field). They are the next generation and we know we are leaving the store in good hands," Stanchek said.

mlight@standardspeaker.com, 570-455-3636

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