Practice makes perfect

Mine workers test skills in competition

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Seven mine rescue teams will be in Craig this week to test their skills in contests that, while fun, are deadly serious.

Beginning today, teams from Colorado, New Mexico and Utah will test their speed, critical-thinking skills and ability to perform under pressure in a series of competitions. They'll simulate being in an underground mine by making their way through roped-off sections of the Craig Middle School football field. Signs posted along the way will inform them about the air quality, hazards and other considerations.

"They're training for the real thing and meeting people they'd be working with in an actual emergency," organizer Link Derick said. Derick, the technical safety manager for Twentymile Coal Company, has two local teams competing. There also will be a team from the Deserado Mine outside of Rangely.

Teams also will be tested on correct use of breathing apparatus and first aid.

"They're really complicated problems," Derick said. "There's a lot of pressure. The contests are fun, but they're pretty intense."

The competition is held in Craig every other year. Teams practice 10 hours a month except in competition season, when they train during the week preceding competition. The Craig teams attend three competitions a year.

"The problems they work -- you wouldn't think you could do so much in a football field," Derick said.

The contests are designed and judged by more than 40 Mine Safety and Health Administration and Colorado Division of Mines personnel. They spent eight hours in training Monday to prepare.

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