A refuge chamber, also known as a refuge station, is an enclosed construction to keep people safe during an emergency. The secure area is equipped with items necessary to sustain the people inside, like water and breathable air, among others, until they're rescued or the hazardous situation is contained.
It’s generally advised that the chamber should be underground in a fresh air environment far from dangerous areas like oil stations or storage areas for explosives. The refuge chamber is actively in use whenever an alarm is engaged to indicate that there's an emergency.
The most significant purpose of a refuge chamber is to keep workers or miners safe whenever there's danger. There could be a chemical blast in sites where workers interact with explosive and flammable chemicals. The toxic fumes can cause accidents and even death if there's no way of containing the situation.
Mine Arc is one of the service providers who can share insights about refuge chambers. This post will highlight how the enclosure should be constructed and the equipment therein. Read on to learn more.
How A Refuge Chamber Should Be Constructed
A refuge chamber should be built from materials whose fire-resistance rating is an hour plus. It's also preferred that the refuge chamber is dug from solid material like rock or gypsum and fitted with a steel door. It should be big enough to accommodate about eight to thirty people and all the necessary equipment as well.
The chamber should be built so that it can be sealed so as not to allow any gases in. Plus, a refuge chamber should be compact enough so that in the course of transportation from one location to another underground, door frames don't break.
There should be an alternative in-ward entrance in case of an accident and barriers or obstacles block the primary access. This alternative door should be fixed far away from the main one.
Equipment Or Items That Should Be In A Refuge Chamber
A refuge chamber is said to be incomplete without the essential items inside it that’ll aid its occupants. Experts agree that a smartly designed and highly-effective refuge chamber for employee safety has the following:
- Breathable Air
There should be multiple sources of breathable air in the refuge chamber. The air should have enough oxygen and no carbon dioxide, water, or carbon monoxide that may harm those in the refuge chamber. The air supply should be from an oil-free source on the surface, and the supply apparatus should also be an oil-free unit.
- Water and Food Items
You must get piped water from the surface to the chamber through an independent, non-metallic pipe fixed in a borehole. You can also have enough bottled water for the chamber occupants for at least 36 hours. Even though miners can go long hours without food, some rations should be made available to boost good mental health. Water prevents dehydration, which could affect skills needed in an emergency, like decision-making and proper coordination.
- Power Supply
The power supply to the refuge chamber should be from a secure source like the electrical system from the mine. There should be a continuous supply to minimize any concentrations of hazardous gases to normal levels. The power supply in the refuge chamber is also for lighting and air conditioning. There should also be a backup power supply, known as a stand-alone mode, to save the situation in case the main supply fails.
- A Conducive Environment
In case an emergency or a hazardous situation is contained, workers could stay in the chamber for quite a long time. The compartment should be spacious enough to accommodate everyone, and the cooling systems should be adequate and functional.
- Communication Link
A refuge chamber should have a communication link to a control center from which the occupants can get regular updates about their rescue. There are several ways of communicating, I.e., using personal devices that provide low frequency through the earth's surface, investing in high-quality video and audio contacts to connect the refuge chamber to the control center on the surface. This gives hope to the occupants that help is at hand and that they will be rescued.
- First Aid Kit
A first aid kit should be available in the refuge chamber with all required items for all occupants. The miners or workers must learn how to use the first aid items to act fast whenever there's an emergency.
- Sanitation Facilities
Toilets should be provided considering the number of people that occupy the chamber. The restrooms should be situated in a separate compartment within the refuge chamber for privacy and better management of odors.
Refuge chambers are safe havens for underground workers as accidents and hazardous situations are bound to arise at work due to work equipment malfunction and others. It's good to note that the chambers are constructed depending on the particular site, such as a transport tunnel, an underground mine, or a petrochemical facility. The feature above aims to discuss with you a brief guide in properly constructing your very own refuge chamber.