The breathing apparatus




The aim of this project is to determine whether Breathing Apparatus (BA) as used by the fire service offers the wearer the same resperatory protection in water as it provides at fire/chemical incidents.


The objective is to:

  1. Carry out a survey of fire service personel with relation to the use of BA at water based incidents.
  2. Carry out a side by side comparison of both a Breathing Apparatus as used by the fire service and a Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus (SCUBA) set as used by recreational divers.
  3. Carry out an experiment wherby, a member of the sub aqua club will wear both sets in water.
  4. To look at current training provided to fire service personel and SCUBA divers and identify additional training required before BA can be worn in water.

The Fire Service: A brief history


Although Fire fighting has been carried out in Ireland for hundreds of centuries, the Fire Service itself was not set up until the mid nineteenth century with the introduction of Fire Brigades, which were run and equipped by insurance companies.

In 1854, the then government passed the Towns Improvement Act. This enabled local Authorities to purchase and provide fire fighting equipment in towns where the population exceeded 1500. However this power was exercised by a limited number of local authorities and as such not all Authorities had Brigades.

In 1907 the Public Health Act was introduced. This gave Local Authorities the power to enter into agreements with neighbouring Local Authorities for the use of their fire fighting equipment and for mutual assistance. However any person requiring assistance from an urban fire service was liable for the cost incured by the Local Authority for sending the brigade to the scene.

In 1940 the Fire Brigades Act put in place the first countrywide fire fighting system. It made it mandatory for local authorities, both urban and rural, to make reasonable provision for the prompt and efficient extinguishing of fires in their areas and for the protection and rescue of persons and property from injury by fire. In doing this they were to take account of all relevant considerations, including their financial resources. A local authority could discharge this duty by either maintaining a fire brigade, in which case it became a fire authority, or it could make arrangements with another local authority which was maintaining a fire brigade, to cover its district.

The modern service

In 1981 the Fire Services Act was introduced. This legislation established the current fire authorities which at present, cover the 26 counties of the republic, as well as making provision for the organisation of the fire service, training of fire service personnel, fire fighting and fire safety and other matters relating to the protection of people, property and the environment from fire.

At present there are 32 Fire Authorities who maintain and operate a total of 230 fire stations throughout the country. The service delivered from these stations is provided in one of three ways. These are, Full Time Brigades as in Dublin, Cork, Galway, Waterford and Limerick, which are manned 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Day Manned Brigades as in Drogheda, Dundalk and Sligo, which are manned from 9am - 6pm Monday to Friday and are covered by part time or retained personnel at all other times, and finally Retained Brigades which make up the remainder of the stations across the country and are manned by part time fire fighters who report for duty only when paged to do so. The rank structure within the service is as follows:

The role of the fire service

The use of breathing apparatus in the in fire service

The purpose of breathing apparatus used by the fire service is to support life by protecting the respiratory system of the wearer. They allow fire fighters to enter into areas and carry out work where there is a known or suspected oxygen deficiencythat would otherwise not support life.

The Function of Oxygen

Breathing is a spontaneous action, and is performed automatically by the body approximately fifteen to thirty times every minute. The body performs this action because it needs Oxygen, which is normally obtained only from the atmosphere. To obtain this Oxygen, air must be drawn into the lungs, held for a sufficient time for the Oxygen required to be absorbed into the bloodstream and then expelled back to the atmosphere. This process is known as respiration and consists of two physical actions, inhalation (breathing in) and exhalation (breathing out).

As the body requires only the Oxygen from the air, it can be said that Nitrogen plays no part in respiration, and as such passes in and out of the body unchanged. Carbon Dioxide however, is a respiratory stimulant, and is produced by the process of respiration in greater quantities than it is supplied in the atmosphere.

The transfer of inhaled oxygen from the lungs to the muscles is affected by the blood. This oxygen rich blood travels through the arterial system into capillaries, which, having very thin walls, allow a continual discharge of oxygen into the tissues and an assimilation of carbon dioxide to take place. This carbon dioxide in turn is carried by the blood, via the veins, back to the lungs where it is exhaled to the surrounding atmosphere.

The amount of oxygen required by the body is determined by the amount of work performed. While at rest, only the involuntery muscles such as the heart, lungs and digestive system are used and subsequently very little oxygen is required. Whereas, when the body is active such as when carrying out work or exercise, more oxygen is required and consequently the heart rate and breathing rate are increased in order to supply the active muscles with more oxygen.

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