In a recent summary of coal mine rescue training facilities, the National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health concludes that there is a deficiency in both the number and capacity of such facilities.

For the survey, which comes on the heels of recent mining disasters and new mine rescue team legislation, NIOSH researchers conducted meetings across the U.S. with mine emergency response experts. The needs and issues identified during those meetings include emergency response preparedness, mine rescue contests, real-life training capabilities and training facilities.

“Many new teams are being formed that must be trained for mine rescue team competitions as well as be ready to respond to a variety of mine emergencies, including a fire or explosion, a massive roof collapse, mine inundations or vertical shaft rescue situations,” according to the report’s authors.

The NIOSH summary notes that only eight of the dozen training facilities in the U.S. are open to the public. The rest are privately-owned or used exclusively for government or academic research.

“This shortage of local facilities causes many teams to travel long distances, which consumes valuable training time and resources,” notes the report. This is especially true for teams in western Colorado, New Mexico, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, Oklahoma and Arkansas. “Furthermore, teams might not even be able to receive training at the closer facilities, because of limited availability in the facility schedule.”

Of the facilities surveyed, MSHA’s Mine Simu-lation Lab is the oldest and most heavily utilized facility. At the newer end of the spectrum is the SWVCTC Academy for Mine Training and Energy Technologies in Logan, WV, which provides real-life and wider-ranging training opportunities. All of the available centers provide training in a real or simulated underground mine and offer a range of classroom and first- aid teaching. Most of them offer specialized firefighting and smoke-training exercises, but some must go offsite or utilize a mobile unit. Incident command or MERD training is provided at all but two facilities. Heavy-object removal and vertical-rope rescue is offered at two training centers and water rescue is only offered at one.

Teams at only two facilities can practice on indoor mine rescue contest fields, but two more are being proposed at two different facility locations. Finally, only one facility can provide lodging, the MSHA Academy.

NIOSH says it will use the research findings from this report future investigations to improve coal mine rescue training. The report can be viewed at: http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/mining/pubs/pdfs/mrtfi.pdf www.cdc.gov/niosh/mining/pubs/pdfs/mrtfi.pdf .