GILLETTE, Wyo. — Rescue teams from Wyoming took the top three spots in a competition for emergency responders at surface mines.
Seven teams had to respond to a mock accident involving an equipment collision that caused one death and three injuries during the International Surface Mine Rescue Competition, which was held last week at a heavy equipment dealership in Gillette.
The objective is to put rescuers into as realistic a setting as possible, said Josh Tompkins, president of the Powder River Basin Safety Association.
The team from the North Antelope-Rochelle mine in the Powder River Basin south of Gillette finished first. Cloud Peak Energy’s Antelope mine, also south of Gillette, was second. A team from Solvay Chemicals in Rock Springs ranked third.
The other four teams were from California, Nevada and Wyoming.
In previous years, the mock incidents have involved a disoriented forklift operator colliding with a railroad car and terrorists detonating explosives.
The competition lasted two days. On Thursday, teams competed in fire rescue, triage, confined-space rescue and high-angle rescue.
“Thursday is probably the craziest day because all the scenarios are going on at once,” said Dan Smith, competition committee chairman. “The teams finish one scenario, they get 10 minutes to get their stuff packed up and move on, then they start their next scenario.”
The mock accident drill was Friday. Teams that have not completed the drill are not allowed to watch the others in action so they do not get an advantage when their turn comes.
The team with the lowest score in Thursday’s events went first Friday. The low-scoring team is usually the least experienced and can benefit from watching the others do the accident scenario, said Tompkins of the Powder River Basin Safety Association.
Rob Brewer, a former member of the Antelope mine team who now works for the Glenrock Fire Department, said learning from other units is a big benefit of the competition.
“Rescue is kind of an art, not really a science. You can approach situations a lot of different ways,” he said.
“These teams can learn from each other and see techniques they might have never thought of before.”