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Broad Agency Announcement for Research Contracts: Refuge Alternative Concepts for Deployment Near the Face of Coal Mines

Solicitation Number: 2013-N-14957
Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
Office: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Location: Acquisition and Assistance Field Branch (Pittsburgh)
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Combined Synopsis/Solicitation
Added: Jan 30, 2013 2:07 pm
Research Contracts: Refuge Alternative Concepts for Deployment Near the Face of Coal Mines


This publication constitutes an Agency Announcement by the Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), as contemplated in Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) 6.102(d)(2). A formal Request for Proposals (RFP), solicitation, and/or additional information regarding this announcement will not be issued. This announcement will remain open until 04/01/13 or until replaced by a successor announcement. Proposals must be submitted by 03:30 PM Eastern time on 04/01/13, for funding consideration during fiscal year 2013.

Any proposal, modification, or revision received at the Government office designated in the solicitation after the exact time specified for receipt of offers is "late" and will not be considered unless it is received before awards are made, the Contracting Officer determines that accepting the offer would not unduly delay the acquisition, and -

- there is acceptable evidence to establish that it was received at the Government installation designated for receipt of offers, and was under the Government control prior to the time set for receipt of offers, or -

- it was the only proposal recieved.

Electronic proposal submission will not be accepted. Proposals must be signed by an official authorized to bind the organization. Print copy proposals should be submitted in one (1) original and four (4) copies.

NIOSH will not issue paper copies of this announcement and reserves the right to select for award, all, some or none of the proposals in response to this announcement. NIOSH provides no funding for direct reimbursement of proposal development costs. Technical and cost proposals (or any other material) submitted in response to this announcement will not be returned. It is the policy of NIOSH to treat all proposals as sensitive competitive information and to disclose their contents only for the purposes of evaluation.

Awards under this announcement will consist of firm fixed price contracts. Therefore, proposals submitted as a result of this announcement will fall under the purview of the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR).


A. Agency Name -

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
Office of Mine Safety and Health Research
Post Office Box 18070
626 Cochrans Mill Road
Pittsburgh PA 15236-0070

B. Research Opportunity Title - Refuge Alternative Concepts for Deployment Near the Face of Coal Mines

C. Program Name - Office of Mine Safety and Health Research

D. Research Opportunity - Number 2013-N-14957

E. Response Date - This announcement will remain open until 04/01/13. Proposals may be submitted any time during this period.

F. Research Opportunity Description -


The objective of these research contracts is to develop innovative new approaches to providing refuge alternatives (RAs) in underground coal mines which can be advanced to within 1,000 feet of the working face. NIOSH is looking for concepts which overcome the barriers to employing built-in-place (BIP) type RAs which can be advanced with the working face. These new approaches must:
1. Meet the criteria for RAs as spelled out in the MSHA final rule.1

2. Address the issue of improved psychological and ergonomic comfort within the chambers by
providing additional living space per confined miner.

3. Provide as much breathable air per confined miner as possible with the minimum being that
required in the MSHA final rule.1

4. Allow for advancement with the face in an economically viable manner.

The proposed innovative approaches can include as part of their design, but are not limited to, ideas for mobile (moveable) RA stoppings, inflatable stopping concepts, protected compressed air lines, more compact and greater volume O2 and/or breathable air supply systems, and alternative approaches to borehole planning and placement.

While NIOSH Office of Mine Safety and Health Research's (OMSHR) primary interest is in innovative RA designs that can be advanced with the mining face, it should not be ruled out that these designs could also have application in outby locations.


With the introduction of the Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response Act of 2006 (MINER ACT)2, following the Sago Mine disaster, coal mine operators began to introduce refuge alternatives (RAs) into their underground mines. The first of these went into place in 2007 and consisted mainly of mobile chambers provided by a number of vendors. These are either solid steel structures or inflatable-type structures which provide purging and breathing air from compressed air or O2 cylinders. Today, there are approximately 1,700 of these mobile units employed in underground coal mines in the U.S. The other available RA option is that of built-in-place (BIP) shelters. These are typically constructed by building rigid RA stoppings at both ends of a crosscut with one or both of the stoppings having a door. Another option is to construct a BIP shelter by building a RA stopping with a door at the end of a cutout (dead-ended heading in the coal). Breathable air and purging air can be provided to these BIP shelters either by boreholes to the surface, compressed air lines, or by compressed air and O2 cylinders similar to the systems used in the mobile RAs. When MSHA's final rule on RAs went into effect on March 2, 20091, it mandated that BIP shelters must have stoppings, including a door that would withstand a 15-psi static pressure. This negated the use of many of the existing BIP shelters because they did not receive MSHA approval as meeting the mandated 15-psi criteria. Today, there are a small number of BIP shelters in underground mines in the U.S. Many of these meet the MSHA 15-psi criteria, but some are still employing conventional stoppings and are slowly being replaced either with approved RA stopping designs or with mobile chambers.

BIP shelters without boreholes or breathable air supplied by a protected compressed air line have limited advantages over mobile RAs, in that their size is also limited by the amount of purging and breathable air that can be provided by compressed air and O2 tanks. However, BIP shelters with boreholes or breathable air supplied by a compressed air line from the surface offer a number of safety and other advantages:

1. A BIP shelter with a borehole solves many of the problems associated with air purging and air scrubbing. It is easy to create a positive pressure in the chamber with clean breathable air. Air supply in place systems (compressed air or O2 cylinders) put significant limits on the total air available, but air from a borehole is unlimited for the most part. Breathable air provided by a protected compressed air line source can also accomplish this objective if the supply can be guaranteed.

2. With BIP shelters with boreholes, some of the thermal issues associated with mobile chambers are eliminated. Cooler air can be provided from the surface and the larger available fresh air volume helps to provide for more efficient dissipation of heat and humidity.

3. Communication with the surface is much easier and more reliable when the BIP shelter has a borehole. The communication system has a much greater chance of surviving an explosion or fire. Additionally, if the communication system is damaged by a disaster, it can easily be re-established down the borehole.

4. Additional food, water, and specific medical supplies can be provided down a borehole.

5. BIP shelters with a constant supply of fresh air can generally be made larger and provide more available room for miners, eliminating many of the psychological and ergonomic issues of long-term confinement. This makes life in the shelter more like that experienced by the Chilean miners trapped underground for 69 days in 2010.

6. BIP shelters with boreholes or compressed air lines have fewer requirements with regard to miners learning how to operate the chamber. There are no purging and air scrubbing systems to operate since they are not needed if adequate air is provided down a borehole or via a constant supply compressed air line.

7. The 96 hour survival time is not a constraint since there is an unlimited supply of fresh breathable air and potential access to additional food and water if a borehole is employed. This eliminates the psychological "ticking clock" aspect of mobile RAs.

8. An existing borehole will ensure that a larger escape shaft will be drilled in the correct location.

9. The order in which miners arrive at a BIP shelter is much less important since purging air is not limited. Also, if some miners decide to leave a BIP shelter and others decide to stay, there is still an adequate supply of breathable air available to keep the chamber livable.

10. Depending upon a number of economic issues (borehole costs, cost of protected compressed air lines, stopping costs) BIP shelters can often be very cost competitive with mobile units.

Despite these advantages, there are limitations on the use of BIP shelters since in many cases the costs of providing boreholes or compressed air lines may be prohibitive. Additionally, BIP shelters with approved RA stoppings are not generally practical to establish within 1,000 feet of the working face as required by MSHA regulations1, since the shelters constantly need to advance with the face, making new borehole and stopping costs prohibitive.

With respect to the mobile units currently being employed, while manufacturers are providing units that are innovatively designed to sustain life for 96 hours, there appears to be limited confidence on the part of coal miners concerning their use. Miners generally state that they would not consider entering a mobile unit. They have significant concerns about heat problems, purging problems, uncertain communication, and other issues. Additionally, there is concern over the serious psychological issues that will arise from confinement in a very limited space for any period of time. Finally, mobile units are limited in the available living space they can provide for two reasons:

1. They need to be small enough to be readily moved through the mine and constantly advanced to within 1,000 feet of the working face. Therefore, their height always has to be at least several inches less than the height of the coal seam and their widths and lengths have to be short enough to make the turns into crosscuts.

2. They rely on compressed air and O2 cylinders for purging and breathing air and they require CO2 scrubbing systems both of which must be adequate for 96 hours of survival. These tanks and scrubbing systems take up some of the available space in the chambers and also limit the size of the chambers to the amount of life-sustaining air they can provide.


Given that RAs will only be employed under disaster conditions when miners are under extreme emotional stress, every effort needs to be made to provide RAs that are easy to employ, provide the highest practical level of psychological and ergonomic comfort, and the greatest confidence of survival. Serious consideration needs to be given to the following:

• Providing miners with enough confidence to use RAs in emergency situations when escape is not practical;

• The simplicity of employing the RA;

• Enough breathable air supply to increase the likelihood of miners surviving for extended periods of time in a RA;

• Heat and humidity concerns;

• Availability of communication systems;

• The psychological and ergonomic issues associated with confinement.

The option exists for mines to provide BIP shelters as their choice of RAs in outby locations, but current BIP shelter designs would be prohibitively expensive to constantly advance within 1,000 feet of the working face due to the borehole and stopping costs associated with approved RAs. Innovative concepts for RAs near the face area of mines are needed which will both provide miners with a higher degree of confidence in entering them and ensure that they can adequately provide life-sustaining conditions for extended periods of time.

The NIOSH OMSHR is interested in funding a number of research service contracts to generate these innovative concepts for providing RAs which can be advanced with the working face of a coal mines. As many as twenty (20) of these research service contracts will be awarded for up to $25,000 each (awards up to $50,000 may be awarded if justified by the potential of the proposed concept). Total available funding is $500,000. The period of performance of each service contract is not to exceed 6 months total. The possibility exists for additional future funding to further advance development of a proposed concept that the NIOSH OMSHR deems worthy of more consideration.


1 Federal Register (2008). Refuge Alternatives for Underground Coal Mines; Final Rule. Department of Labor, Mine Safety and Health Administration, 30 CFR Parts 7 and 75, Wednesday, December 31, pp. 80656 -80700. http://www.

2 United States (2006). Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response Act of 2006 (MINER ACT), PL 109-236 (S 2803). 109th Congress - Second Session, June 15, 13 pp.


A. Where to Apply

Interested parties should submit proposals outlining their concepts (not to exceed 5 pages of technical discussion), a summary of the proposer's qualifications, and a detailed cost breakdown to:

John J. Carolan - Contract Specialist
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Procurement and Grants Office - Field Branch V
Post Office Box 18070
626 Cochrans Mill Road - Building 140 - Second Floor
Pittsburgh, PA 15236-0070
Phone: 412-386-6430

B. Date for Submission of Proposals

Proposals will be accepted from the release of the solicitation through 03:30 PM Eastern time on 04/01/13.

C. Costing of Proposals

The proposed cost should be representative of the effort proposed. For example, the simple proposal of a novel concept would generally be expected to have a lower proposed cost than would a concept proposal which involves an actual demonstration of the concept.


NIOSH plans to make awards that represent the best value to the Government in accordance with the evaluation criteria. NIOSH is seeking participants for this program that are capable of developing and demonstrating the technologies required to achieve the goals described in this announcement.

1. Total Amount of Funding the Program Office expects to Award through the Announcement

• $100,000 to $500,000

2. Anticipated Number and Estimated Amount of Awards

• Given the nature of this work, NIOSH estimates that the typical project envisioned under this solicitation will require between $10,000 and $25,000. Awards in excess of $25,000 (up to $50,000) will be awarded if justified by the potential and associated scope of work of the proposed concept. It is estimated that 5 to 20 awards will be made under this announcement.

3. Anticipated Award Types

• The contracts will be Firm Fixed Price. NIOSH will not issue grants, cooperative agreements, or other transaction agreements under this announcement.


All potential applicants are eligible. Foreign-owned Offerors are advised that their participation is subject to foreign disclosure review procedures. Foreign or foreign-owned Offerors should immediately contact the Contract Specialist John J. Carolan, at 412-386-6430 or electronic mail for information if they contemplate responding. The e-mail must reference the title and announcement number 2013-N-14957.


NIOSH OMSHR will select proposals for funding based on the following criteria.

1. Does the proposed concept address the problem in terms of providing a practical application in underground coal mines? 40%

2. If the concept does address the problem in a meaningful manner, would it be economically practical to apply in underground coal mines? 40%

3. The qualifications of the proposer in terms of past history of engineering design experience and experience in addressing similar type design problems. Underground coal mine knowledge would also be a positive. 20%


A Progress Report in both hard copy and email will be submitted to NIOSH OMSHR within three (3) months of the effective date of the contract. At NIOSH OMSHR's discretion, the NIOSH Contract Officer Representative may contact the contractor to discuss progress and direction as reported in the update report. This may be done either by phone or email.

A Draft Report in both hard copy and email will be submitted to NIOSH OMSHR within 5 months of the effective date of the contract. This report must contain detailed figures and discussions of the proposed concept(s). NIOSH OMSHR will review the Draft Report and provide feedback via questions and comments to the contractor within fourteen (14) days after receipt of draft report. Within fourteen (14) days of receiving the government's comments the contractor will provide NIOSH OMSHR with a corrected Final Report. If no government comments/questions are received within the fourteen (14) day period the contractor may assume that the draft report has been accepted as submitted and may proceed with delivery of final report. 


1. North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) Code - NAICS code for this announcement is 541712 with a small businsess size standard of 500 employees.

2. System for Award Management (SAM) - Successufl offerors not already registered in SAM will be required to register prior to award of a contract or other transaction agreement. Information on SAM registration is available at HTTPS://WWW.SAM.GOV/PORTAL/PUBLIC/SAM/.  SAM registration is also to include FAR Sub-Part 4.12 - Representations and Certifications required information completion.

Post Office Box 18070
Cochrans Mill Road
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15236-0070
John J Carolan,
Contract Specialist
Phone: (412)386-6430
Fax: (412)386-6429
Larry Guess,
Contracting Officer
Phone: 412-386-6828
Fax: 412-386-6429