Bill Aimed At Faster Emergency Transport From Mines Clears Senate

By: Marie Luby Email
By: Marie Luby Email

The senate passes a bill to require coal mines to list their global positioning coordinates so medical helicopters can reach injured miners more quickly during emergencies.
We talk to miners who say the measure is already common practice, and one that is saving lives.

This bridge turns into a medical helicopter landing zone anytime a nearby TECO coal miner needs to be flown out to a trauma center. TECO has four such landing sites for three Perry County mines.

TECO Coal Safety Manager Michael Joseph says, "I would say that it's probably one of the best services we've got."

The company contracts with LifeNet Air Medical responders, who know exactly where to land in an emergency. TECO lists latitude and longitude coordinates for each site, plus any potential landing hazards ... like nearby power lines or poles.

Joseph says, "When they come in here, especially at night, they can't see those things, so this is good information for them; they know to stay away from those areas."

TECO miners say the practice is already common among coal operators, who can spend $6,000 to $12,000 on a single flight.

TECO Coal Safety Director Dave Blankenship says, "But when you're looking at saving a guy's life, or saving a guy's hand ... six to 12 thousand dollars is not even considered a cost."

Blankenship continues, "If the legislature feels that it better serves the industry and the public to codify that, this industry is wholeheartedly on board with that; we don't have a problem complying with it."

The bill now heads to the House for consideration.

Senate Bill 52 would also require local Kentucky State Police posts and 911 call centers to keep GPS coordinates handy.
Pikeville Senator Ray Jones sponsors the bill.


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