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The Good Side of a Disaster

Friday, October 15th, 2010


It shouldn’t have to take a disaster to bring communities, agencies, and governments together. If there’s a good side to the Chilean mining disaster it’s that it brought together multiple groups and nationalities to save 33 trapped miners.  The Chilean mining disaster had a successful conclusion – all the miners returned alive. But, the causes of the disaster still need to be addressed, and dealt with.


While I couldn’t find what caused the actual mine collapse, I did find articles on why the miners were trapped so far underground. The 33 miners, trapped 2,300 feet below ground, climbed the emergency ladder inside a ventilation shaft, but only got 1/3 of the way to the top. The San Esteban Mining Company had never finished the emergency exit ladder, so the miners had no way to the surface.


Having an escape passage is good. Never finishing it, is short-sighted and, not very intelligent. A breach of the four degrees of safety. (See prior post Putting Safety First.)   


In addition, miner Mario Sepulveda remarked, “but when we got here, the energy was cut off and there was no ventilation.” Another unintentional safety breach, or willful neglect by Alejandro Bohn and Marcelo Kemeny, the owners of the San Esteban Mining Company?


President Sebastian Pinera vowed to overhaul labor safety regulations and bring to justice those responsible for the accident, whether they are part of the company or part of the government. A needed and necessary vow, but will it be followed up on? Time will tell.


Those performing the rescue Part of the operation following a disaster should be able to:

-  Size up the scope and requirements of the situation.

-  Identify resources as they become available.

-  Deploy those resources in a coordinated manner.

- Continue the size-up, assessment, and deployment process on an ongoing basis as more becomes known.


 Even under the scrutiny of the media and most of the world, the people in charge of rescuing the trapped miners did well. The following tasks:

- size up the scope and requirements of the situation;

- identify resources as they become available;

- deploy those resources in a coordinated manner;

- continue the size-up, assessment, and deployment process on an ongoing basis as more becomes known;

Were all performed by the rescue team with positive results.


Under the scrutiny of the media and most of the world, the people in charge of rescuing the trapped miners did a commendable job.


Despite the valiant efforts that returned them to the surface, the miners may still experience, in addition to their physical aches, pains, and light sensitivity; psychological & physiological symptoms, such as:

-  Irritability or anger. Denial. Loss of appetite.

-  Blaming others. Mood swings. Headaches, chest pain.

-  Isolation, withdrawal. Diarrhea, Stomach pain, nausea.

-  Fear of recurrence. Hyperactivity. Feeling stunned, numb, or overwhelmed.

-  Increase in alcohol or drug consumption. Feeling helpless.

-  Nightmares. Concentration and memory problems.

-  Inability to sleep. Sadness, depression, grief.

-  Fatigue, low energy.

So though the miners are back on the surface, they may still have a ways to go before everything in their lives returns to normal. But, thankfully, they will have the chance to recover.


But if safety regulations had been followed, the emergency exit ladder would have been finished, kept in good repair, and would have brought the miners to the surface with a minimum of trouble and hardship. Safety regulations should be kept up to date in accordance with technological advancements. And it goes without saying safety equipment and passages should be finished and maintained to keep them at 100% efficiency. The good part of this disaster is that people came together to save other human lives. The bad part is that it never should have happened in the first place.