Teck Resources, East Kootenay Mines Industrial Safety Association (EKMISA) and Shock Trauma Air Rescue Service (STARS) observed multiple historic milestones on May 13.
EKMISA marked the 100th anniversary of its annual mine rescue event in Sparwood, where Teck employees from five local mine sites compete in simulated scenarios of mining site accidents and disasters.
Additionally, Teck and STARS celebrated a 30-year partnership and the donation of $300,000 towards critical patient care in mining accidents.
A STARS air ambulance was flown onto Sparwood, where spectators were able to take a look inside. The night before the event, on May 12, STARS gave landing zone training to the mine rescue teams and the Sparwood Fire Department.
The mine rescue competition was moved from Teck property to the Sparwood Recreation and Leisure Centre so the community could watch the historic occasion.
“There’s lots of friendly rivalries going on, but everyone’s playing for a common goal,” said Teck social responsibility manager Rory O’Connor, as he described the mine rescue competition.
“[The employees] they all have similar training and skills and they’re really wanting to perform their best to ensure the safety and well being of their colleagues and community residents. There was a lot of encouragement. People shifted on the fly to help each other if one thing wasn’t going as planned to ensure a really appropriate and positive response.”
Each team took part in a number of disaster scenarios; a worker trapped in a piece of equipment in an enclosed space; a passenger vehicle roll-over in a rugged mountain area; a fire at the mine site; and an employee stuck on a piece of scaffolding.
The teams cycled through the various scenarios under pressure of the clock. The two winning groups, whose points were tallied by a panel of judges, will compete at a provincial mine rescue competition in June at Williams Lake.
This year marks one century of EKMISA mine rescue events and the competition remains just as popular today as it was when they started.
“We had lots of spectators, lots of children. We had a lot of interested, all the way from little children to adults,” O’Connor remarked.
“It was a lot of hooting, hollering, great energy. It was such a beautiful day outside. I don’t know how some of them were able to handle being in their rescue gear all day. It sure made for an amazing environment for the spectators.”
Meanwhile, STARS and Teck marked a three-decade-long partnership that started in 1993.
STARS plays a critical role in transporting patients to urban hospitals during accidents at mine sites.
”There have been a number of times where we’ve come in to the East Kootenay area for patients who have fairly significant injuries, where that three to four hour ground ambulance ride through the pass is quite difficult and quite painful,” STARS flight nurse Stuart Grant told the Free Press.
“Being able to fly them in a nice smooth advanced aircraft can cut down that transport time to 45 to 60 minutes. It improves our patient care and it makes the care people are getting in this valley so much better.”
Teck registers its mine sites with STARS Emergency Link Centre so that when a critical call comes in, centre staff can see the precise location the injured person is at, what kind of equipment they were using and what kind of medical resources are available on the ground.
“When a call comes in for injuries or when they request us and they need our help, it is easier for us to pinpoint where they’re at and get to them efficiency and quickly and land on-site,”explained provincial director for Southern Alberta STARS Josh Nash.
Teck is making a $300,000 donation over three years to STARS in celebration of the 30-year partnership. With this money they’ll surpass $1 million in Teck donations since the partnership started.
Nash said STARS will use the money to purchase equipment for critical care and to improve staff education. The organization would like to transport blood on their helicopters for transfusions and equip its choppers with portable ultrasounds so medics can transmit images of an injury to emergency care centres.
Grant added that STARS wouldn’t be able to help nearly as many people without support from Teck.
“The support from the community and through Teck over the last 30 years is part of the reason we’ve been able to provide such advanced care to the people of this area,” he added.