State Gets New Mine Safety Tool

West Virginia has a new tool when it comes to mine rescue. The state Office of Miner's Health, Safety and Training teamed up with Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College to purchase a large chassis truck called Sat-Com 1. It's a mine disaster command center on wheels.

"This truck is going to have four gas analysis labs on it. It will have their command center set up here. The radio communications will be for any of the mine rescue teams, the fire departments, the ambulance services. They'll all tie in together."

David Hurley is with SWVCTC. He'll be the man behind the wheel if and when the vehicle gets called out to a mine rescue. The truck, which is on display this weekend at the West Virginia Safety Expo at the Charleston Civic Center, was purchased in response to last year's Upper Big Branch Mine disaster.

Hurley says when time is of the essence, Sat-Com 1 can determine if it's safe for rescue teams to enter a mine. "We'll be able to pull in on sight, do a gas analysis within 15 minutes, as opposed to Upper Big Branch. I think they had a couple hours getting gas analysis back."

Another major problem for rescue teams at UBB – communication. Hurley says no matter where in the state Sat-Com 1 is parked, as long as you can see the sky, the truck will have crystal clear contact with anyone in the world.

"We can lock into the satellite. We have Internet and telephones wherever we're at. We have the capability of up to 15 lines."

According to the Governor's Independent Investigation into the blast, most of the 29 men killed at Upper Branch died instantly. But Hurley says Sat-Com 1 would have been the perfect vehicle to have back in 2006.

"It would have been real important to have at Sago because they could have done the gas analysis on site and they could have got in quicker. Maybe it could have made a difference."

Sat-Com 1 is just a shell at the moment. It heads to Georgia in a couple weeks to be fully transformed into a rescue-ready command center and lab. Hurley says outfitting the vehicle will only take a couple weeks and then it will be on-call 24/7 out of the SWVCTC's Logan campus.

The truck will be made available to other states if a mine disaster strikes.

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