Mining Rescue Service System
When lives are at stake, there is nothing more important than reliability, and no organisation knows that better than the Queensland Mines Rescue Service, or QMRS. Founded in 1923, QMRS is not only a world leader in providing an emergency response to accidents and emergencies in the coal industry, but also for the vital task of training volunteer miners to become specialist rescue personnel. In addition to these tasks, QMRS also offers support and guidance to mining authorities engaged in drawing up their own emergency response plans, as well running first class and very realistic exercises based on a variety of accident scenarios. Finally, in the event of an incident, the experts from QMRS are on hand to provide advice and assistance to the team managing the rescue and aftermath.
In QMRS’s work there is no room for error and every link in the chain must be entirely reliable. Neither can they rest on their laurels or be complacent about the quality of the service they deliver. Constant development and improvement of performance is crucial, as is harnessing every technological improvement that becomes available. With all this in mind, QMRS seeks out a means of further enabling and supporting their decision-making processes and improving incident management, particularly during the vital early minutes and hours following an accident. They turn to Nepean, a leading company in providing outstanding engineering and technological solutions, not only to the mining industry but also to the engineering, transportation, agricultural and construction industries. Nepean, in turn, reaches out to Softage to develop and deliver a bespoke product meeting QMRS’s exacting needs.
Working closely with both QMRS and with Nepean, an expert team from Softage examines the requirements and developes an outline solution. Our team sees that the optimum solution would be a bespoke web-based application specifically designed to meet each specified requirement. The application, christened Digital Rescue, will have two parts. The first is an incident management tool supporting the command and control of a live mine rescue operation. The second part is a training application, vital in ensuring the preparedness of the managers charged with directing and controlling an accident, as well as the volunteer rescuers who carry it out.
Once deployed, Digital Rescue will become a fundamental part of QMRS’s ability to mount safe and successful mine rescue operations and will form the framework around which a successful rescue effort is built. The first function of the application will be decision supporting, and the first step of that will be assisting in accurate and complete incident recording.
In future, when operators take a call announcing an incident has occurred, they will log into Digital Rescue and open a new incident record. The application will prompt them to gather all the relevant details and then allocate between two and six rescue managers to the incident based on a previously inputted matrix of their availability. Digital Rescue will continue to support these managers throughout the incident by allocating resources (including personnel, vehicles and specialist equipment) based on its extensive records of the location, condition, and availability of those assets. Application allows managers to assign tasks and requests, plan rescue operations, and review rescue reports on each phase of operation. This will relieve the rescue managers of the unnecessary distraction of having to worry about asset availability in the early minutes and hours of a mining emergency, greatly simplifying their task, and releasing them to focus exclusively on the development of a rescue strategy, secure in the knowledge that the asset allocation from Digital Rescue is as swift as it is reliable.
The second key user requirement from QMRS is for the delivery of a robust and versatile training management system, key to the effective training of the volunteers who will be putting themselves in harm’s way.
To address this requirement, Softage’s team is developing from scratch a series of utilities within Digital Rescue to manage training effectively. This bespoke approach guarantees that the training package will integrate seamlessly into the overall application. With a separate account for each student and each trainer, the training package will enable distance learning using video, written material, presentations, and audio lectures. It will also enable online course management, examination, and assessment.
Outside the immediate emergency situation, Digital Rescue will become an indispensable management tool. The asset register which forms the core of the incident management and support facility will allow asset visibility and tracking across a large and geographically dispersed organisation, overcoming all the difficulty which that often presents. The fidelity of Digital Rescue’s asset database will provide confidence to management when conducting cost analysis and budgetary planning.
Tools & Technologies
The small team allocated by Softage to the Nepean and QMRS task knew that there was no margin of error in the work that they were to be carrying out. They were able to use their extensive knowledge of Microsoft.Net 4 and Silverlight 5 to deliver a web based product that had the ease of use so critical in times of emergency, combined with the fidelity of asset management on which the robustness of the entire system depends. The training package also required the team’s broad knowledge of Windows Communication Foundation, or WCF and Microsoft SQL Server 2012.
Work started in March 2012, and progress to date has been excellent, with every milestone hit on time and on budget.