Return to the 'Total Rescue' Homepage

The Parallel Intake Mine Ventilation System

Steve's Real Estate Pages

Steve's Resume

E-mail Steve Burston

Emergency Response Considerations


Mines Rescue is primarily about saving lives, however it is important to recognise that there are priorities. The first priority of Mines Rescue is to ensure that none of the rescuers become victims, the second is to save lives, the third is to control the cause of the emergency (eg by extinguishing fires) and the last is to thoroughly check that no hazards remain (eg by testing for gases).


To achieve the objectives of Mines Rescue in an emergency, it is vitally important that correct procedures are established, practised and fully understood by Mines Rescuers and management. All personnel must be accounted for and informed of the situation so that no unnecessary traffic or activities will interfere with the emergency response.

It is vitally important that for each possible emergency it is arranged in advance who will be the coordinator of the emergency response. This person is known as the director.

After having been briefed by management, the director's first task is to choose a site for the headquarters. This is the place where the rescue teams will assemble and where the director will brief them. The headquarters must be located as close to the scene of the emergency as possible, in a safe place, without having any chance of being affected by the cause of the emergency, it must have assured outside communications, it should have sufficient space and facilities for emergency medical personnel to treat any victims, and it should be comfortable enough for personnel having to spend time waiting.

In an underground situation, the headquarters is known as the Fresh Air Base (FAB) and must have an assured travelway to the surface in fresh air.

After being briefed and noting all of the relevant information on the plans of the area, the director must carefully consider all of the details that he has and formulate a response plan, bearing in mind the priorities of Mines Rescue.

When formulating an emergency response plan, the factors to be considered are:

  1. The probable condition of the area after the effects of heat, smoke, water, chemicals or electrical faults;
  2. The route to enter the area;
  3. An alternative escape route;
  4. Visibility and familiarity of the area;
  5. The number and probable condition of victims;
  6. The number of rescuers available;
  7. The equipment available;
  8. The limitations of the rescuers and their equipment;
  9. The effects of heat on the ventilation system;
  10. Possible side-effects of controlling the cause of the emergency.



Once the response plan has been formulated, the director should select the rescue teams and nominate the team captains.

Usually, the team captain will nominate the vice-captain and other team members' positions in the team before being briefed so that the vice-captain can have the rest of the team check and organise the rescue equipment. The first-aider or a guide is normally designated the number 2 position, and the vice-captain is always the last man.

All information that passes from management to the rescue teams, and vice versa, must be relayed through the director and the team captains.

Precise instructions, preferably in writing, must be given to the team captains on what the teams are required to do and how they are to do it.

After being briefed by the director, the team captain will brief the rest of the team, and team members must be allowed to ask questions so that their duties are fully understood.

The team captains should receive the following information in the briefing:

  1. The nature of the emergency;
  2. The identity or status of the informant;
  3. Plans of the area, with inaccuracies and relevant points marked;
  4. The number of victims, their probable conditions and some means of identifying them;
  5. The plan of action and desired outcome;
  6. The suggested route of travel;
  7. Alternative escape routes;
  8. The conditions that are likely to be encountered;
  9. Maximum duration of their stage of the rescue (allowing twice the estimated time needed to reach the destination for the return);
  10. Back-up arrangements;
  11. The status of the ventilation system;
  12. The status of power, compressed air and water;
  13. The location of any equipment that the team may need;
  14. The availability of transport;
  15. Details of previous actions taken (extinguishers used, personnel evacuated, work and traffic halted);
  16. The availability of medical aid;
  17. Communications arrangements.

If familiarity with the area or visibility are likely to be a problem, the plans should have the distances between all reference points marked before the team leaves.

Communications during an emergency response, either between a team and headquarters or amongst team members, must be given careful consideration. Radio procedures must be understood and include provisions for the failure of a unit. Equipment that is not intrinsically safe should not be taken into explosive atmospheres.



Emergency Protocol


The effectiveness of a response to an emergency will largely be governed by how much is prepared in advance. The longer people can act without having to think too hard, the more likely they are to think clearly when needed. To this end, duty card systems are established and record sheets for the captain are prepared. In the example below, the first page is for briefing information and the second page (which is carbonised for leaving a record at FAB) is used for monitoring cylinder pressures.

Briefing Sheet


Cylinder Pressure Record Sheet



The captain of a Mines Rescue team will be in control of and be responsible for the discipline, safety and work performed by his team. He must only take orders from the rescue director.

After having been briefed, he will choose the equipment required and allocate it evenly amongst the team members. He will nominate the duties of each team member and check that all team members fully understand the team's task and their individual responsibilities.

The captain and vice-captain will each have a notebook, pens and some means of marking where they have travelled, and they must synchronise watches with each other and the director before leaving the rescue headquarters.

During the rescue, the captain must keep track of the team's position on the plans, noting conditions and details that he encounters - he will usually be required to provide information to an inquiry into the emergency. He must clearly mark the route of travel, for signs to follow when returning or for a back-up team to follow, and regularly check the condition of his team members (the speed of the team is governed by the speed of the slowest member). In case the captain is injured, his documentation must be in a form that the vice-captain can read when he takes over.

The captain must constantly look for danger to his team and for this purpose should avoid involving himself in work being done by the team.

In the case of multiple victims, the captain must decide who is evacuated first.

He must adhere as closely as possible to the director's plan of action, whilst being able to quickly compensate for unexpected conditions, in which case he should if possible notify the director.

There are a number of reasons why a rescue team might return to headquarters before completing the set task:

  1. A fault or low cylinder pressure in a team member's breathing apparatus;
  2. Injury to, or adverse mental condition of a team member;
  3. A change in the environment;
  4. Encounter of adverse conditions;
  5. Instructed to return by director;
  6. Discovery of survivors requiring immediate evacuation;
  7. To meet the arranged return time.

Upon returning to headquarters, the team captain will relate to the director the details of the work done by his team, and show on the plans the conditions that they encountered. The team should then discuss the operation amongst themselves.

It should always be considered that after an emergency that rescue team members and the workforce may need counselling.



During an emergency response, team members must follow orders from the captain and (in some circumstances) the vice-captain without argument. They should not speak until spoken to, unless they can see something important that the captain hasn't, in which case they should first ask for the captain's attention.

Team members must never act on impulse, and must only act on the captain's instructions.

In some emergency situations, team members may have to spend a considerable time waiting, sometimes without any information coming through. Patience is essential and team members must stay where they have been asked to.

Before leaving headquarters, each team member must ensure:

  1. That he has checked, prepared, is familiar with and can manage with his equipment;
  2. That he has had his questions properly answered;
  3. That he understands the team's and his own tasks;
  4. That he is well and can see no reason why he should not be able to perform the tasks required.

It is vital to remember that if for some reason a rescuer cannot perform the duties required of him, the desired outcome of the emergency response will probably not be achieved.

Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus

Drager PA93

Hazardous Chemicals

Drager BG174

Drager BG4



Fire Fighting

First Aid

Rope Rescue

Case Study - Pasminco Fire

Major Disaster Case Studies


Summary of the Principles of Rescue Work

Guidelines for the Frequency of Practice Sessions

Return to the 'Total Rescue' Home Page