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Kanawha unveils mine accident response plan

Kanawha County officials unveiled a draft of their new plan for dealing with mining accidents at a monthly meeting of Metro 911’s executive board on Wednesday.

In the wake of recent mining accidents in Upshur, Logan and Boone counties, which killed 16 miners, County Commission President Kent Carper requested a specific plan to help coordinate local first responders.

“We’ve had practice at being involved in ongoing problems with gas leaks, floods, major accidents, and other natural disasters,” Carper said. “We needed the same thing with mining disasters.”

The Interim Mining Disaster Plan establishes a method to help coordinate emergency and rescue operations.

Now, in the event of an incident at one of the county’s 32 mines, Metro 911 employees will know how to respond.

“We need to have a plan if we get the call,” said Carolyn Charnock, Metro 911 executive director.

Mining accidents can be logistical nightmares because of the various agencies that respond, including the state’s Office of Miners’ Health, Safety and Training, the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration, and local law enforcement, EMS and fire departments.

“This is a step in the right direction,” said Mark Wolford, Charleston’s director of homeland security and emergency services and a Metro 911 board member. “It’s a better, unified approach to an emergency.”

In January, at the urging of Gov. Joe Manchin, the state Legislature passed a bill that would create the Mine and Industrial Accident Rapid Response System. Under the new law, mines must call a 24-hour hotline within 15 minutes, which in turn must contact local emergency services.

On Tuesday, Metro 911 received just such a call after a Kanawha County miner was injured, said Carper.

Wolford said emergency officials were writing unified, all-hazard plans for Putnam and Kanawha counties. Once the plans are finalized, they are subject to the approval of the county commissions and city governments.

“Being prepared for the unexpected is a challenge,” said Carper. He said not having a plan would be “gross negligence and a dereliction of duty.”

To contact staff writer Andrew Clevenger, use e-mail or call 348-1723.


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