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Posted: Aug 6 2007, 09:29 PM


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The history of the development of self-contained breathing apparatus goes quite far back in time, though in the early days most of the attention was given to designing a unit to protect firemen from smoke inhalation.

One such design for firemen dates back to about 1825 when the "smoke filter" was used. It consisted of a leather hood and a hose that was strapped to one of the wearer's leg. It did not contain its own supply of oxygen. Rather, it was designed so that when the wearer inhaled from inside the hood, air would be drawn up through the hose.

The idea behind this design was that the best air during a fire is closest to the floor. The hose and hood was intended to provide this better air to the firemen as they worked in smoke.

Soon after, equipment was designed to provide the firemen with good safe air to breathe for short periods of time. One such design was the "supplied air suit" which was filled with fresh air to breathe.

Another design for firefighters was a bag-like unit filled with fresh air and carried on one's back, much like some of today's units.

Underwater divers also used some of the first self contained breathing apparatus developed.

Then, in 1853, self-contained breathing apparatus was introduced for use in the mines by a Professor Schwann of Belgium. In that year, Schwann entered a self-contained breathing apparatus in a competition of the Belgian Academy of Science, and exhibited it at an industrial fair in Belgium.

In 1880, the original Fleuss apparatus was introduced in England, and in 1903 the original Draeger apparatus was developed in Germany.

In the United States, breathing apparatus were introduced in 1907 when five Draeger units were purchased by the Boston and Montana Mining Company in Butte, Montana.

Records show that also in 1907, apparatus were first used to fight fires and explore ahead of fresh air in the mines:

In October or November of 1907, Draeger apparatus were used by a crew of men during the fighting and sealing of a mine fire at the Minnie Healy Mine of the Boston and Montana Mining and Smeiting Company in Butte, Montana.
On December 6, two Draeger apparatus were used to explore ahead of fresh air after an explosion in the Monongah Mine of the Consolidated Coal Company in Monongah. West Virginia.
On December 19, apparatus were used after an explosion in the Darr Mine of the Pittsburgh Coal Company in Jacobs Creek, Pennsylvania.
In 1910, the Bureau of Mines was established. The Bureau began equipping mine rescue railroad cars and stations with apparatus and began training miners in the use and care of the breathing apparatus. Thus, the equipment necessary for rescue work and the trained teams to use it gradually became more available to the mines.

At first, all the apparatus used in America were imported from Europe. Then in 1918, the Gibbs apparatus was designed and manufacture. This was followed by the Paul in 1920 and the McCaa in 1927. These early American-made apparatus were designed for 2-hour use.

The development of self-contained breathing apparatus has continued to progress through the years. A number of different manufacturers are now producing apparatus that are approved to be used for periods of 2, 3, and 4 hours at a time. Among these apparatus commonly used for mine rescue work are the Draeger BG 174, the Aerolox, and the Scott Rescue-Pak.

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