HR Management & Compliance

Simulations: The Key to Preparing Rescue Teams for Emergencies

It’s well established that hands-on practice reinforces training content and helps participants perfect their skills before they are called upon to use those skills on the job. In the case of rescue teams, that practice can mean the difference between life and death. Today we take a look at two examples of simulation training in action.

Grain Bin Entrapment

As part of an annual contest that began in 2014, more than 30 fire departments in 15 states have been selected to receive grain rescue tubes and specialized training on how to extract farmworkers who become entrapped in a grain bin, according to Nationwide, one of the contest’s hosts.
The training is conducted in a grain entrapment simulator, which holds about 100 bushels of grain and is loaded on a 20-foot trailer.
The Westphalia, Kansas, Fire Department, which was a winner in the inaugural Nominate Your Fire Department Contest, did not waste any time putting its grain rescue tube and the hands-on training to good use. In 2015, the department saved a man who had become entrapped in a grain bin, Nationwide ( reported.
The Dyersville, Iowa, Fire Department—one of the 2016 winners—also sees the value in having the new equipment and training. “The tube and training gives us the opportunity to bring an emergency situation back to some sense of normalcy,” said Chief Al Wessek.

Mine Rescue Competition

Meanwhile, competitions give mine rescue teams opportunities to put their training to the test in simulated emergencies. For example, the 2016 National Metal and Nonmetal Mine Rescue Contest helped mine rescue teams sharpen their skills and test their knowledge in a variety of emergency scenarios, such as a mine fire, explosion, or roof collapse, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), which hosted the competition with the Nevada Mining Association.
“We ask mine rescue teams to respond to some of our nation’s most difficult emergency situations. We owe them the best training, equipment, and support to help them be successful and to stay safe,” said Joseph A. Main, assistant secretary of Labor for the MSHA.
As part of the contest, rescue teams must follow standard mine rescue procedures when searching and accounting for all missing miners. Technician teams check that multigas and self-contained breathing apparatuses are working properly, and participants test their response to medical emergency techniques, such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation and the treatment of physical shock, wounds, burns, and musculoskeletal injuries.
Similarly, the Missouri University of Science and Technology’s Annual Mine Rescue Competition includes a field competition in which rescue teams are evaluated on their response to two simulated underground emergency situations, a first-aid competition, and a team technician competition that includes technical troubleshooting of mine rescue equipment, according to Doe Run Company (
“These competitions give us realistic mine rescue challenges,” said Steve Setzer, captain of Doe Run’s Maroon Mine Rescue Team, which took first place in the 2016 field competition and won Best in Association and second place in first aid. “The exercises help keep our skills sharp in case we need to aid our fellow employees during a real mine emergency.”
Doe Run makes an “ongoing commitment” to employee safety, said Steve Batts, vice president of Southeast Missouri Mining and Milling Operations at Doe Run. Each year, the company provides more than 15,000 hours of safety training to its employees, including 40 hours of mine safety training for each employee before they are allowed to work in mines. Members of Doe Run’s mine rescue teams also spend a minimum of 8 hours in training each month.

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