• Feds’ Emergency Plans List Hundreds Of Wrong, Non-Working Numbers

    People may die in the next coal-mine disaster because emergency response plans include hundreds of wrong numbers for first-responder services, according to a federal watchdog.

    The Mine Safety and Health Administration is required to list contacts for emergency services in case a mine collapses, but at least 260 of those phone numbers were either wrong or unidentifiable, the Department of Labor inspector general reports.

    It’s more than a minor offense.

    “The inability to immediately reach emergency personnel during an accident could delay the arrival of rescue personnel and put miners at further risk,” the IG said. “Therefore, it is critical that any lists prepared be maintained complete and accurate at all times.”

    Of the 779 emergency phone numbers called by investigators, 260 were either incorrect or were unanswered and had no message system that identified the line’s owner. Consequently, 44 of the 51 emergency response plans had at least one wrong or unknown number.

    “In an emergency situation, personnel should not be expected to have to call a number multiple times,” the IG said. MSHA claimed that 25 percent of those incorrect telephone numbers worked, but the administration “offered no support for this assertion.”

    MSHA officials also couldn’t provide the IG with one regulation that required emergency response contact lists to be updated other than for “emergency medical assistance and transportation for injured persons.” Fire departments and mine rescue teams, however, were not included.

    MSHA officials claimed that 98 of the fire department and ambulance phone numbers identified as incorrect were volunteer services “that may not have permanent staff on a 24/7 basis.”

    But the IG questioned if there really was no around-the-clock monitoring.

    “Regardless, we are particularly concerned MSHA would consider this an acceptable response to our finding, particularly because the regulation on arrangements with ambulance services does not require 24-hour operation,” the IG said.

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