By Suzanne Barteau
NM Bureau of Mine Safety at New Mexico Tech
If there was an emergency at one of your work sites, would first responders know where to go? The answer to that question might surprise you, as Bartoo Sand & Gravel Co., found out when they started making plans to conduct a simulated emergency at their crusher site.
The inspiration for the drill came from a workshop on Emergency Notification Requirements & Emergency Operations Planning held in Carlsbad in January. After the workshop, Howard Bartoo contacted his local fire department, sheriff’s office and emergency medical service responders to see what it would take to set up a mock scenario for his sand and gravel operation.
As he expected, the response Bartoo got was positive; emergency personnel welcomed the idea and saw it as a valuable training opportunity. What he didn’t expect was that, although everyone knew about his site, responders didn’t really have a clear idea of how to get to it.
The site, where the exercise was staged, is only about three miles from the company’s main office in Truth or Consequences. To get to it, you drive about a mile and a half beyond where the pavement ends, on a county road that winds up through a wide canyon and stops where the crusher site begins.
“Nobody knew where it was,” Bartoo said. “It’s a major county road, but nobody had ever been up it. The only one who uses it is me.”
Among the worst scenarios Bartoo could imagine was if a loader turned over at his crusher site and a man was pinned under it. Bartoo’s worst case scenario, in fact, could have been worse, if he’d had an injured worker and the help he was expecting went the wrong way. Problems like this are what mock drills are meant to discover, and prevent.
“The purpose of training is so people don’t make mistakes. But if there is a mistake, an injury or an accident, how prepared are you?” Bartoo said. “I wanted everybody to go through the steps and know what to do. By doing it, they know the procedure. Who needs to do what, who needs to be called. A panic situation changes the whole mindset, so you have to be prepared.”
A phone call at 10 a.m., on Jan. 29, set the whole plan in motion. All work stopped while everyone went through the motions of what they would do in an emergency, and rehearsed their part in a potentially life or death situation. It cost the company about two hours of down time, but to Bartoo, it was well worth it.
“That’s a small amount, to be on top of it,” Bartoo said. “Nearly all the people I hire are local people. I knew their parents. I was raised with them. If somebody got hurt, it would be tragic.”
Now that he’s done it once, Bartoo said he would do again, especially if he changed key personnel, or if there were personnel changes within the fire department and hospital.
“In the future, I’m going to have more exposure with these emergency people,” he said. “I’d hate to see an ambulance lost up there.”
If you have questions about mine safety, contact Terence Foreback, New Mexico State Mine Inspector at New Mexico Tech at (575) 835-5460.