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Simula­ted rescue exerci­se in coope­ra­tion with the Rescue Depart­ment brought new learnings to opera­tions

On 11.4.2024, we organised an extensive rescue exercise at the Pampalo mine in cooperation with the North Karelia Rescue Department. The simulated exercise involved the operational chain of the Pampalo mine, the rescue unit of the Ilomantsi fire station, the area team leader, the heavy rescue team, the fire chief on duty and the operational command centre. We also practiced providing situational awareness to various stakeholders outside the production area.

The exercise focused on a demanding rescue operation in a mining environment and the evacuation of an unconscious patient from a mine. The simulated situation required practice in assembling a rescue team within the production area, providing emergency assistance and, an alarm chain, creating situational awareness and independent situation management before the arrival of the rescue department. The control centre of the production area supported the rescue department’s on-site situation management and the internal rescue team assisted the rescuers in their rescue work. The company’s management practised crisis communication internally and externally in accordance with the pre-planned procedures.

The simulated situation was guided by a fictional but realistic script

The exercise involved a fictitious collapse of an inclined tunnel in an underground mine at level +800-810. One person was trapped in the collapse and a person working at a nearby level was seriously injured, with a crushing injury to his leg.

The rescue department acted in accordance with the real alarm and response instructions. On arrival on the scene, ground operations: gathering information and creating a situational picture, reaching the contact persons, passing information along the operational command chain. Underground rescue; the first rescue unit sends three rescuers underground as a first response, who will safely reach the incident site via a tunnel and an emergency exit tunnel. The descent into the emergency exit tunnel was managed with the help of ropes and harnesses. The task of the first responder was to stabilise the patient and prepare the patient for the upcoming vertical lift together with the internal rescue team. The Pampalo command centre maintained a status briefing for the fire chief on duty as well as the company management. At the end of the exercise, the workers trapped at the bottom of the collapse were evacuated, and secured by rescuers and safety ropes, via the emergency ladder of the emergency exit tunnel, 25 metres length to the next level.

“The exerci­se went accor­ding to plan and safely, a good descrip­tion of the level of pre-planning that had been done for the exerci­se,” said Pasi Viita­mä­ki, a parame­dic and a member of the exerci­se planning team, after the exerci­se.

The Pampalo control centre worked well and was able to build up a situational picture and pass on the right situational picture to the authorities. Coordination with the Rescue Department was seamless, from the operational level to the command centre. The large-scale exercise was a good success and was carried out in a safe manner. Although it was a simulated situation, the personnel were well involved in the exercise and we came close to an authentic accident situation. In terms of our current operational capability, we gained a great deal of confidence in our operations and also found areas for further development, which is one of the most important aspects of the exercise.

“The rescue exerci­se invol­ved a large group of person­nel from the contrac­tors, Endomi­nes and the North Karelia Rescue Depart­ment, and I’m really pleased that the exerci­se went as planned and finis­hed safely. Despi­te the challen­ging opera­ting condi­tions and scena­rio, no safety-risking errors were detec­ted during the exerci­se. Without sufficient­ly diver­se pre-planning, risk review and compre­hen­si­ve exerci­se risk assess­ment in the team, it would not have been possib­le to organi­se such an exten­si­ve exerci­se”, says Ilkka Räty, Chief Opera­ting Officer of Endomi­nes.

Each exercise develops our capacity

The purpose of exercises is to learn and develop. We also found something to develop in this exercise. We will go through the development measures with the company’s staff and start to develop our emergency and accident preparedness in cooperation with the regional rescue department. Concrete actions will include the alignment of plans and better coordination of communication channels for management.

“Many thanks to all those who partici­pa­ted in the exerci­se for your active partici­pa­tion and for the obser­va­tions made during the exerci­se. These will help us to develop our inter­nal rescue opera­tions and self prepa­red­ness for emergency and accident situa­tions,” thanked Juha Sinkko­nen, Endomi­nes’ safety expert.