Team prepares for challenge

Colowyo Coal Co. rescue squad to compete in event in Utah

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When Jim Andrews worked on a mine rescue team, he sometimes carried a length of common "manila" rope, a figure-eight and a pulley.

Now, the safety supervisor sees Colowyo Coal Co.'s team outfitted with high-tech, strain-tested nylon ropes and sophisticated "mechanical advantage" tools that make high-angle rescues easier and safer.

Armed with these tools and other modern rescue equipment, two members of Colowyo's mine rescue team will travel to Utah this weekend to showcase their skills at a convention of the Rocky Mountain Coal Mining Institute.

Andrews is the health and safety superintendent at Colowyo. He hung up his hat as a mine rescue trainer in 1993.

Andrews said the teams will work through a series of mine rescue scenarios and be ranked according to their level of expertise.

Colowyo two team members will join others from Wyoming mines that are owned by the same parent company, Kennecott Energy Co. Rescuers from Cordero Rojo, Jacobs Ranch and Antelope Mine are already in town practicing with the local miners, Andrews said. Two employees from the Spring Creek mine in Montana also are on the team.

John Chadwick, a Craig man who works in Colowyo's mechanical maintenance department, was chosen to join the team.

"We thought it would be nice to make a composite team," Andrews said. "If we put them all together, they can all gain something and trade stories."

Some members might be experts at rope rescues, while others are particularly versed in confined space situations or hazardous materials, An-drews said.

But because the team has never worked together in that capacity, they've spent this week honing their skills as a group. They dangled off draglines and buildings, and lugged around a 165-pound rescue mannequin.

Chadwick has a strong background in emergency medical response and likes to branch out and learn about rope rescues, Andrews said.

The other Colowyo miner, Jason Musser, also is an EMT whose strength is medical emergencies, Andrews said. Musser has a background in firefighting that will be an asset to the team, Andrews said.

Despite their training and sophisticated tools, Andrews said the team rarely is called into action for an emergency at the mine. Improve-ments in surface mining safety have made the occupation safer than a job as a convenience store clerk, Andrews said.

Occasionally, the Colowyo rescue team and their fully-equipped ambulance is dispatched by the Colorado State Patrol to respond to emergencies, such as a car wreck on nearby Colorado Highway 13.

Although the team's trip to the Rocky Mountain Coal Mining Institute's convention sometimes is seen as a competition, Andrews said it's more of a learning experience.

The participants will come back from the convention to share what they've learned with the other members of their respective teams.

The training and networking the rescuers received this week convinced Andrews, "It's already a winning situation for us."

Jeremy Browning can be reached at 824-7031 or jbrowning@craigdailypress.com.

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