Emergency preparedness plans are often referred to as disaster plans. However, the word disaster should not be the select reference. After all, the whole point of the plan is to eliminate the potential disaster. It can, in fact turn a potential disaster into a well managed situation with the least possible effect on the miners and property of the mining operation.
Therefore the preferred label would rather be a mining emergency response plan (MERP), a mine operation’s guide in the event of a mine emergency that lays out procedures and courses of action in the event of a mine emergency. It identifies those responsible for taking action immediately after the discovery of and during the response to an emergency, as well as their respective duties.
Establishing the planning team
The emergency planning team, comprising of a diverse group of people from various departments, is responsible for the development and administration of the emergency preparedness plan. Typically, the safety manager takes overall responsibility for developing the plan. However, it cannot be done by one person. In order to create ‘buy in’ it is important to have many different voices contribute to the design of the plan. At the very least the general mine manager, mine foreman, maintenance manager, HR manager, engineering manager, and security director. Should be included in the team. Finally, the success of the MERP is largely dependent on the support of the chief executive officer or owner of the operation.
Analyzing capabilities and hazards
Personnel, equipment, facilities, and organizational resources that play a role during a mine emergency need to be evaluated in terms of being able to provide the desired effect. For example, if this team is composed of miners who have never been involved in an emergency operation, they may have limited capabilities during a mine emergency. Furthermore the causes and their potential consequences of an emergency should be identified in advance. Such a risk assessment allows the mine operation to take appropriate countermeasures in order to minimize the prospect of the event causing an emergency. Risk management helps move the mine from a culture of reaction to a culture of prevention. Instead of reacting to an emergency the mining company proactively identifies the risks and then develops prevention or mitigation control.
Develop the plan
After all variables have been assessed The MERP is developed. It would include the mine operation’s emergency management policy; authorities and responsibilities of key personnel; the types of emergencies that could occur; how and where these emergencies will be managed; and how recovery efforts will be structured. The West Virginia Office of Miners’ Health, Safety and Training and the West Virginia University’s department of Mining Extension Service developed a manual that gives detail guidelines in this regard. (http://www.statler.wvu.edu/mindext/mining/Emergency%20Preparedness%20Plan-Final.pdf)
Testing the plan
A plan should be tested before an emergency, not during one. The test then exposes where the plan has weak links. A very effective method of testing the plan is a tabletop exercise whereby a mine emergency is simulated in a formal setting and in a narrative format. Participants would include those identified in the emergency management group. You may also want to include the “responsible person.” The tabletop exercise is a very cost-effective method of testing plans and procedures and will often show a need to update or modify the plan.
Implementing the plan
Implementing the plan means acting on the recommendations that were made during the risk assessment; integrating the plan into mining operations; training employees; and evaluating and revising the plan. The MERP should be woven intricately into the mining operation’s culture; otherwise, it remains pinned down amongst dozens of files of good intentions, that have never been executed and never saved lives.