An international contingency of mine rescue personnel will descend deep into the earth of Kentucky Wednesday through Sept. 24.
An emergency mine rescue team from Twentymile Coal Company in Oak Creek, Colo., will compete with 50 teams from the United States and around the world including Canada, China, Africa, Poland, Ukraine and Russia in the 1999 National International Mine Rescue, First Aid, Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) and Bench Contest in Kentucky.
The competition is designed to test the knowledge of miners who might be called upon to respond to a real emergency. The contest will require six-member teams to solve a hypothetical mine emergency such as a fire, explosion or cave-in. Judges will rate miners on how quickly they complete the task and their adherence to mine rescue procedures.
Dianne Poniklvan, coordinator of the mine rescue team for Twentymile Coal Company who also competes as the mapman on the rescue team and as an EMT, is excited about the competition but says the event is one of the rare opportunities the team has to practice a rescue under realistic conditions.
"It is taken pretty seriously," said Poniklvan. "We look at it as practice for the real event. It is one of the few times we can practice underground."
Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) will host a press conference that will feature the top mining officials and international delegations.
Along with the actual rescue drill, the benchman from the competing teams will test skills at mine rescue equipment maintenance. This will include inspecting breathing devices that have had "bugs" purposely place in the equipment. They will compete under the clock to correct those defects. Mine EMTs will also compete in a contest based on real-life scenarios. They must demonstrate the correct method of caring for an injured miner from removal at the mine to the hospital.
According to Poniklvan, the EMT and bench events are the Twentymile team's strong points.
"We usually do well in the bench and EMT," said Poniklvan. "We expect to take either first or second in both events. Our rescue team does well also but they usually place fifth or sixth."
Delegations representing several other nations will attend the event not only to compete in the competition but also to observe rescue techniques.
Poniklvan enjoys being on the team, but believes the role has more to it than just attending international competitions.
"The people on the team have to be very dedicated," said Poniklvan. "They sacrifice a lot of time they could be spending with their families to become competent at their tasks. It's a lot of studying and practicing."