In June, Thompson mine planner Bridget Corriveau became the first woman to join the Manitoba Mine Rescue team in a decade, and she hopes to motivate other women to do the same.
“We’ve had a director of operations who is a woman and others involved in the process, but no women on the actual team,” said Bridget. “I’m really hoping to inspire other women to join. It’s an awesome experience.”
Just believe in yourself.
Bridget, an engineer-in-training (EIT II), has been at Thompson for three years, where she’s been involved in mid-range planning for both the T1 and T3 Mines.
Caring for colleagues
Mike McDonald, fire and rescue emergency services advisor, initially asked Bridget if she’d be interested in joining the five-member team. She had previously participated in several emergency drills on the surface in which she helped get people to refuge stations and made sure all employees were accounted for, and was interested in pursuing rescue even further.
“You care about the people working underground and want to make sure they’re safe,” she said. “And I’ve always admired our rescue team members and thought I’d like to try it.”
To qualify, Bridget completed mine rescue basic training, which involved both classroom theory and practical hands-on learning, and then passed a technical exam. This training familiarizes team members with the rescue equipment, such as the self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA), and teaches members to operate as a team.
“You do things together, one person is an extension of the other,” she explained. “It’s a disciplined operation where safety and communication are key.”
As part of the training, Bridget went underground in a practice scenario that involved simulated smoke. “Just to make sure you can handle yourself in that situation,” she said, “wearing all the protective gear and oxygen in that smoky atmosphere.” She was also involved in putting out fires at a practice facility known as the “burn house.”
Bridget admits joining the formerly all-male team was intimidating at first, as were the physical demands of the position, but she surprised herself by learning how capable she is. “It gave me a lot of confidence,” she said. “I proved to myself that I could do it so I’m proud of myself.”
A warm welcome
Bridget invites any other women considering mine rescue to reach out to her with questions. “I’m willing to walk them through it because it is intimidating – joining a bunch of dudes,” she explained, with a chuckle. “I feel like you just need one person to break that glass ceiling, and then the opportunities are endless.”
She credits her mine rescue teammates for helping her feel comfortable as part of the team. “Everyone was super welcoming even though some of them may have been skeptical at first. But once they saw I could do it and keep up with everyone, it was fine.”
Bridget’s advice for other women considering mine rescue is to “just believe in yourself.”
She added: “Having diversity and including different ways of thinking is nothing but positive and a benefit to all. If you’re unsure, ask questions. That’s what I did, and I liked what I heard so I took the plunge.”11