Ontario Mine Rescue
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Once not enough for Ontario Mine Rescue diamond
Heather Willis is ready to do it again.
|Heather Willis, left, and #5 Fanny Laporte take a look at what’s next in the Fernie mine rescue competition. -- Brandy Bloxom Photography|
The nine-year Red Lake District mine rescue volunteer competed with the all-female Diamonds in the Rough mine rescue team at the National Western Region Mine Rescue Competition in Fernie, B.C., last September.
Now Willis, hoping to compete in her ninth consecutive Ontario Mine Rescue district competition for Red Lake Gold Mines in 2020, also wants to make an appearance with Diamonds in the Rough at the 2020 International Mines Rescue Competition.
“They would like me to go,” Willis said, cautiously noting a number of conditions need to be met first, both for Willis and Diamonds in the Rough, before heading to the Mine Safety and Health Administration Academy in Beaver, West Virginia, for IMRC2020.
The door opened last spring when “Kari Lentowicz, the (Diamonds in the Rough) organizer, emailed me, and asked if I would be interested” in joining the team for the B.C. competition, she said.
“I was really interested, and wanted to because it was something totally different to what I’ve done,” Willis said.
Diamonds in the Rough “looked after getting me out there,” said the Ontario mine rescuer. “They planned out the training and everything for the competition.” All Willis had to do was arrange time off from work.
Just before the biennial event, “we got together, and trained for a week in Fernie, and we got to train for a few days at the Teck coal mine in Elk Valley.”
Lentowicz, managing director of Diamonds in the Rough, assembled a six-member team, plus spare and technician. Four were returning members from the IMRC2018 team that went to Russia. Four, including Willis, were new to Diamonds.
“I was the first from Ontario, as well as being the farthest east,” said Willis, designated #4 woman, a utility position.
“That’s always a challenge, getting thrown together, and then immediately . . . we have to make this work, and figure out everybody’s strengths, weaknesses, and personalities on the go,” she said.
“It was a good group. I was a bit nervous. I’m used to working with men even in my day-to-day job,” so working with a team comprised entirely of women was a new experience.
Aside from the challenge most members faced of having to work with new teammates, Willis said the greatest personal challenge was “learning the different procedures, and trying to forget my Ontario habits. “They don’t always do things like us.”
With approximately 40 women among Ontario Mine Rescue’s 850 volunteers, does Willis see an all-female Ontario team in the future?
“It would be cool to see,” she said emphatically, “but I wouldn’t be the one to do that but would be cool to see.”
For the complete story, read the latest issue of The Link Line.
About Ontario Mine Rescue
Under the authority of the Occupational Health and Safety Act and headquartered in Sudbury, Ontario Mine Rescue staffs, equips and maintains a network of mine rescue stations across the province that ensure mines within a specified geographic area have adequate emergency response capability.Ontario Mine Rescue, a part of Workplace Safety North (WSN), has trained and equipped thousands of volunteers who have fought fires, rescued injured personnel, and responded professionally to a wide array of incidents in the province's mines over the past eight decades.
Our role includes delivering training to first responders, providing consultations, conducting periodic audits, ensuring WSN-owned equipment is maintained to manufacturers' recommended standards, and providing advice during mine emergencies.
Since its creation in 1929, Ontario Mine Rescue has established a reputation for high standards in training, equipment and emergency response, as well as in the development of safe, effective mine rescue practices. We have served as a role model for the establishment of training and safety programs for mine rescue organizations in other provinces and countries.
WSN maintains a Mine Rescue Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) that provides advice and guidance to Ontario Mine Rescue. Under the leadership of the committee, we remain committed to continual improvement, ensuring the mining industry's mine rescue needs are met.