Julia Roberts Goad
LOGAN — When the Upper Big Branch mine suffered an explosion, four men who had been working in the mine could not be located or several days. The families of those men held a vigil outside the mine before the miners were found to have died in the disaster.
The delay of getting search crews into the mine during the UBB disaster is one of the situations that Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College’s Mine Rescue Command Unit was created to address.
Mine Fire and Rescue Instructor at SWVCTC Donald Hurley was at UBB, and he spoke to the Daily News at the King Coal Festival, where the Command Unit truck was on display.
“We had to to drive air samples to the lab,” Hurley said. “We realized we need to analyze air samples at the site, now we can do that.”
The Command Unit is equipped with a gas chromatograph, which can analyze air samples, but that is only part of the technology in the 35 foot long truck.
The truck also has satellite communications and a weather radar.
“We have a mast that raises 44 feet up, so we in addition to satellite and internet we have a portable weather station,” Hurley said. “The National Weather Service is not specific to a site, but we can be with our truck with can detect lightning within a 300 mile radius.”
Hurley said the mast is also equipped with cameras, so personnel manning the vehicle can watch a mine entrance as well as other areas of a mine disaster, and record activity.
The cost of equipping the Command unit was paid with fines levied by the Mine Safety and Health Administration, but Hurley said he does not know the total cost of the truck.
“I always say I don’t want to know how expensive it is,” Hurley said. “I would be afraid to drive it.”
Hurley said that since the Command Unit has been on the road, no mine disasters have occurred, so the unit has not been dispatched.
One of the mine rescue units that did respond to the UBB explosion that day was the Mine Academy’s Heavy Rescue Truck. The truck is equipped with rescue equipment, such as 20 airbags and a portable Jaws of Life..
Southern’s mine rescue fleet is rounded out by a light truck, which with an air compressor onboard, has the ability to fill air tanks. The light truck was used at the recent Aracoma Hotel fire, as well as assisting at other disaster scenes.
Southern’s Mine Academy provides training for a career in the mining and energy technology industries. The classes are geared for enhancing students’ knowledge of advanced modern processes and technologies to assist them with job placement in a variety of technical fields. Through the use of state-of-the-art training simulators and hands-on equipment labs, students will obtain industry certifications of which most are transferable to academic credit hours.