Report: APP CMHS Project 4

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7.2.4. Emergency Response Controls

A range of emergency response actions will be required for a full blown emergency depending on the nature of the event. Typically, following the declaration of an emergency the mine is promptly evacuated. This triggers a number of rapid decisions and communications with company officials, regulators and external agencies such as police, fire and other emergency bodies. Emergencies at this level are rarely able to be managed by text book and require a consolidated management response and coordination. The following description of the Mine Emergency Management System (MEMS) approach within the Queensland mining industry is provided as one such process and has been adapted from international fire response organisations.

MEMS has been adapted from AIIMS for use in the underground coal mining industry in Queensland by the Queensland Mines Rescue Services. MEMS is a structured and systematic process for controlling an emergency situation. It can be implemented by one person or many depending on the nature and extent of the incident.

The MEMS process divides the management of any incident into four separate but interrelated functions:

  • Incident Controller

  • Planning

  • Operations

  • Logistics.

The system is typically initiated and implemented by supervisors or senior management personnel who have been trained in the various components and techniques. By design, the number of people and actions can be increased or decreased with severity of the incident.

For instance, a simple example of a small fire on a belt roller can initially be managed by a deputy acting as the incident controller (notification of Control Room Operator and other mineworkers for assistance) and planning coordinator (what to do and how), a mineworker looking after the operations – using a fire extinguisher to put the fire out and another mineworker covering logistics by gathering other fire extinguishers for use. As such an incident continues or intensifies, additional resources are obtained and personnel utilised – the deputy would assume the role of operations coordinator, directing the actions of 4-5 mineworkers with a range of fire fighting appliances. The Shift Engineer may assume the role of Logistics Coordinator – arranging for additional fire fighting apparatus to be taken from the surface to the fire site. The Shift Supervisor would become the Incident Controller responsible for overall coordination and decision making. Another deputy may assume the Planning Coordinators role by accessing gas and ventilation data; and determining optimal actions for the control of the incident.

Incident Controller

This function has the overall responsibility for the management of the incident, which includes managing all the people involved and liaison with the relevant authorities. The control function approves and takes responsibility for a plan to deal with the incident.

The Incident Controller should establish a team of advisors to assist the decision-making and risk assessment processes. Such a team may include representatives from the Mines Inspectorate, Queensland Mines Rescue Service, Industry Safety and Health Representatives and the Police Service (Figure 12).

Figure 12 MEMS Structure

Operations Team

Operation is normally the first function delegated and deals directly with controlling the incident. Operations will ultimately determine the effectiveness of the response strategy. The Operations Coordinator is responsible for the formation of strike teams, the assignment of specific tasks, allocating resources and providing feedback into the Incident Management Plan (Figure 13).

Figure 13 Operations


Planning is responsible for the collection and analysis of all the information relevant to the incident. From this information is drawn the potential causes of the incident, the circumstances as they currently exist and a range of options, alternatives and potential impacts of planned activities. Planning is the critical aspect in developing the Incident Management Plan (Figure 14).

Figure 14 Planning


Logistics is usually the last function to be delegated. The logistics coordinator is appointed by the incident controller and is responsible for providing facilities, services and materials in support of the management of the incident. The logistics coordinator participates in the development and implementation of the IAP and reports to the incident controller (Figure 15).

Figure 15 Logistics

Table 17 provides a suggested approach to crisis management within the underground mining context.

Table 17 Guideline for Crisis Management and Disaster Recovery

Key Component


Identify hazards that could lead to an emergency situation

Conduct a Broad Brush Risk Assessment of the entire site and any critical associated work areas within or external to site boundaries.

Manage such hazards so that an emergency situation does not occur

Conduct Fault Tree Analysis or Bow-Tie Analysis of potential emergency situations.

Identify and implement risk controls as identified in the respective analyses.

Ensure hazard prevention controls are in place and consistently applied

Conduct periodic audits to ensure that the controls are in place and effective, are appropriate to the hazard and nothing has changed to increase the risk.

Establish Hazard and Emergency Management Plans complete with Trigger Action Response Plans

Hazard Management Plans should exist for each and all identified potential high risk conditions.

Trigger levels (ideally numerical) need to be determined for each hazard and predetermined decision and action points documented.

Actions need to include all relevant people including workers.

Develop an Emergency Management Plan that interacts with the Hazard Management Plans and escalates to emergency or crisis actions with the transition to an emergency condition

Communicate such Management Plans to all personnel

All persons must have an understanding of their roles and responsibilities with respect to the Hazard and Emergency Management Plans.

Education in the management plans must be conducted on a regular basis to ensure a good understanding and to assist with the process of conditioning to such events.

Train personnel in both the plan and the apparatus that is to be used to respond to an emergency

Periodic training in the use of all steps and apparatus must occur, before there is a real need to use them.

Conduct periodic emergency drills to reinforce the precepts of the plan – at least annually for all personnel with a drill at least every 3 months at site for various shift patterns

Real time, real life simulations of emergency conditions must occur with all personnel in order that they are conditioned to such events and to assist the adult learning requirements. First time use in an emergency of equipment or systems will fail.

Recognition needs to be given to the psychological issues with time critical high stress situations; and the inability of people to appropriately respond.

Include external agencies in emergency drills to assist their familiarity with site and conditions and to improve interaction

Conduct simulated emergencies with external agencies to ensure that the interactions are effective; that the requirements as recorded in the plan are accurate and practical and to provide an introduction of such external personnel to the mining environment for their own familiarisation.

Develop a team of expert back up resources

No mine management can be expected to be able to manage any and every situation that they are faced with in such often complex situations. There should be an identified, accessible team of external expertise that can be summoned to a mine to provide objective assistance in such situations.

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