Mine safety teams hit the turf at Hazard High, putting their skills to the test

Published: Jun. 12, 2019 at 4:12 PM EDT
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Another spring day was filled with the chorus of mine rescue teams barking out orders and simulating air checks as the Hazard High School Band of Gold hosted another Mine Safety Competition.

Groups from around the state and as far away as Alabama hit the turf, working through a problem that will prepare them for future situations.

"You're sitting there thinking about all the families and stuff. So you're thinking about going in there and doing your best to get them to their families as safely as possible," said Rick Wallen, Team Leader Department Mine Safety Mine Rescue Team.

This year's course was not the most challenging but the teams working their way through it could prove vital to saving a life one day.

"Time-consuming where we got held up on something's, on their ventilation and stuff pumping the water and stuff," said Wallen.

State teams are vital to the safety of mines. As the coal industry continues to fight its decline the numbers of mine safety teams are decreasing, leaving the state to pick up the slack.

"As companies have dropped off. Some of the companies that had their own teams are no longer around. I think in the state we have 24 teams where we had 70 or 80 several years ago," said Jim Vicini, the Director of Kentucky Division of Mine Safety.

These teams compete on the field but they are friends off the field. A vital camaraderie that means cooperation in some of the most vital moments of someone's life.

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