Students participate in mine fire simulation

MORGANTOWN — It’s dark, smoke is surrounding you and it’s becoming hard to breathe. This scenario is one that can occur when a fire in a mine ignites.
With harmful chemicals being emitted and endless clouds of smoke diminishing depth perception, it can be scary. But Joshua Caldwell has been teaching the fundamentals of these types of situations for 10 years.
WVU’s Statler College is hosting Females in the Field this week, with Engineering Challenge Camps. The WVU Academy for Mine Training and Energy Technologies hosted almost 30 high school girls for the mine simulation activity. The campers learned where to use fire extinguishers in real-life situations, as well as simulations on how to put out a mine fire, along with fire safety and properly putting on equipment in emergency situations.
Caldwell, manager of the WVU Academy for Mine Training and Energy Technologies, said the program for the youth is the first year for their hands-on experience they had Monday afternoon.
“The basics that I wanted to teach the girls was just to give them an idea of what emergency preparedness training for miners is,” Caldwell said. “I think based on us having this tour here, being open to expose them to the positive aspects of mining — we want to show that we have fun, but we do abide by basic tenements and we stress that.”
Caldwell said the most important part of the training was having the girls participate by handling equipment and also learning the basics of how to use a fire extinguisher and other fire safety within the mines.

“I think the hands-on that they got to experience with some of the aspects that we teach — we just wanted to sort of give a broad spectrum of those things that we do,” Caldwell said. “It’s fun whenever you can try it; it’s better than hearing somebody talk about it.”
Joshua Brady, associate director for Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources Mining and Industrial Extension, said that Caldwell is the “coolest trainer on the planet,” and as for the simulations with the high school group of girls, it was different than their normal training but enjoyable.
“It’s fun for us. It’s a change in pace from what we normally do,” Brady said. “We’re working with professional employees most of the time, so we get a chance to work with the community a little bit and shed a positive light toward an industry that doesn’t get it is a lot of fun.”
Brady said that the training atmosphere covers every procedure, from learning the equipment to hosing down fires, and it ensures that each person learns the life skills on how to prepare for a possible life or death situation.
“We take nothing for granted, and in a hands-on teaching atmosphere where you’re trying to teach someone life skills, you’re going to cover everything as if they know nothing,” Brady said.
The majority of the institution’s training covers protecting one’s own life as well as others and catering to over 4,000 people from places like Alaska and all the way to Australia. Brady said the simulations that the girl’s participated in that afternoon were not much different from the ones taught in a professional setting.
For Brady, his objective for the institution is to cater proper training to the customers and helping them learn the skills they need for their job field.
“My drive and goal is to keep us in operation, customers happy and to deliver training that is relevant,” Brady said. “Our goal is to stay fresh and to deliver what our customers are looking for and to do it in a manner better than everybody else.”
During the presentation prior the hands-on activity, Caldwell said he grew up in a “coal family,” being a fifth-generation coal miner. When it comes to teaching youth and acting in a professional setting, he takes each aspect as serious and prideful.
“Training has come a long way, and I can offer something that’s a lot better than what my father had,” Caldwell said. “I’m a fifth generation coal miner and I take pride in that — and I just feel responsible to do the best that I can for everybody that comes through here.”
Mastering the basics in any job field is most important, according to Caldwell, and he explained why, with the phrase “you cut it, you bolt it, you dust it.”
“Fundamental skills are the building blocks to more complex things,” Caldwell said. “If you do not abide by the basics, then you fail at some point, and generally it’s not far beyond that point that you fail. There are some basic skills that could cost you your life — just in anything in my experience in life that I’ve ever done is the basic skills you can always fall back on them and reboot and reset … they’re there for a reason.”