WIPP rescue teams compete in national competition

August 24, 2022, 12:02PMRadwaste Solutions
WIPP Blue Team participates in a final briefing before beginning a field contest in a recent national mine rescue competition. (Photo: DOE)

Mine rescue teams from the Department of Energy’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) finished in the top 15 in competitions at the first-ever joint Coal, Metal, and Nonmetal National Mine Rescue Contest in Lexington, Ky., held on August 7–12.

Members of the WIPP Red Team prepare to administer first aid to a mock patient during the competition. (Photo: DOE)

More than 40 teams representing coal mines competed in the competition, as well as 22 metal and nonmetal mine teams. WIPP’s teams were among the nonmetal mine teams participating in the event.

For each team that competed, scores were merged from the various categories—first aid, technical equipment, and field competition—to determine the team’s final ranking. With more than 60 teams competing, WIPP’s Red Team placed 8th overall and its Blue Team placed 15th overall.

The federal Mine Act requires that every underground mine operator ensures the availability of rescue teams. WIPP is located 26 miles southeast of Carlsbad, N.M.

Teammates: Members volunteer to be part of the WIPP rescue teams. All are employees of Nuclear Waste Partnership (NWP), the site’s management and operating contractor.

“These employees spend numerous hours outside their normal workday responsibilities refining their knowledge and skills associated with mine rescue operations,” said Sean Dunagan, NWP’s president and project manager. “We are incredibly pleased to have such high-caliber employees that stand ready to provide emergency response in the event of a mine disaster.”

By category: In the field competition, the Red Team finished 10th and the Blue Team finished 15th.

For the team technician contest, two-person teams were tasked with repairing and calibrating gas instruments, then taking air readings and calculating the results. The Blue technician duo, Colton Ridgway and Chris Dominguez, had a perfect score of zero penalties and finished 4th in the competition, being nudged out of a tiebreaker for 3rd place based on time to finish the event. The Red technician team, Chris Smith and Tony Mihelic, finished 8th with three penalties. All four of WIPP’s contestants had perfect written test scores.

In the first aid contest, teams were presented with a scenario and a simulated patient. They were judged on their first-aid skills and CPR techniques. The Red Team of Ty Zimmerly, Mark Long Jr., and Cody Burke finished 14th and the Blue Team of Manny Marquez, Misty Long, and Lucas Hiner placed 16th.

In a fourth competition, individuals competed by repairing and bench testing a breathing apparatus. Hank Miller of the Red Team finished 5th, Lucas Hiner of the Blue Team placed 13th, Zack Harrell of the Blue Team finished 14th, and Justin Medina of the Red Team placed 24th out of 74 contestants from the 40 teams that competed in the event.

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