The Use of Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus for City Fire Departments.
One of the most recent developments in auxiliary equipment considered necessary by the Chief is the self-contained breathing apparatus or “helmet,” as it is commonly called. While it is one of the minor requirements of a well equipped department, the importance of it is being more and more felt by those chief’s who find that this equipment it purchased with care and used with caution, is not only capable of protecting and saving large amounts of property, but it has been used successfully in saving life which would have otherwise been lost. It is surprising to know that attempts to manufacture helmets have been made since 1857—surprising because it has been only a very recent development in the United States to have helmets in service with any success. This is largely due to the fact that it is only recently that the manufacturers of such apparatus have realized that the requirements in a helmet for use in a city fire department are altogether different than those for mining companies where fire work is limited in its scope to certain mine territories, and the necessity for quick action is therefore very much more pressing in the former than in the latter case. The self-contained breathing apparatus for use in mines have been in vogue from a commercial standpoint since 1903. In Europe, the larger cities adopted for trial purposes the earlier commercial forms of breathing apparatus for mines, and while they were not in all respects satisfactory, a large amount of attention has been given to the development of the apparatus, and changes have been made in the construction to make it more useful for the use of fire brigades. The result has been that in Germany, France, England and Austria, almost all of the well organized fire brigades consider that their breathing apparatus is as important as part of their equipment as their pump outfits. The development has been more recent in this country. The New York-Fire Department only decided within the last two years to organize this branch of their work. Upon very extensive and careful consideration of all types of helmets on the market, and after probably the most thorough tests which have ever been made, not only for fire department service, but as well for mining work, in any place all over the world, Chief John Kcnlon installed ten sets of Draeger No. 1 breathing apparatus. Rescue Squad No. 1 is under the direct charge of Captain John J. McElligott, and in the past fifteen months, this squad has made a reputation for itself which is now well known to every chief in the United States. While it has been a novel experiment on the part of Chief Kenlon, it was one of the most successful ventures ever made in fire department work. Chief Murphy of the San Francisco Fire Department has had No. 1 Draeger apparatus installed for several years, and it has had a most interesting record of service. Other large departments in the United States which have installed this apparatus are those of Los Angeles, Seattle, Denver, Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Boston. An important requirement of a successful breathing apparatus is that it furnish an ample amount of fresh air. Equally important is the fact that it must be ready for service as promptly as possible, and the. changes of charges be made with the greatest facility. The Draeger apparatus accomplishes these results in a degree which has been found to be more satisfactory for the fire chief than any other type of apparatus yet developed. There are other forms of Draeger apparatus for various kinds of service, and while the No. 1 is by far the most refined type and the most useful from the standpoint of the chief, there are smaller types which have found favor among chiefs owing to their lightness and simplicity. The Draeger self-rescuer is particularly adaptable to the use of small fire departments. It is easily and quickly adjusted, and produces an ample supply of air for a period of 30 minutes. It is interesting to know that this is the type of breathing apparatus being extensively used in Western Europe in the “gas war” that is being carried on there. The rapid development in the use of breathing apparatus for the use of fire departments indicates that the time will soon come when, no department will be without them. The apparatus has been worked over and developed into such a form that it is almost perfect, and it will undoubtedly be recognized as an essential part of fire department equipment.