Trained rescue workers with self-contained breathing apparatus are required whenever it is necessary to pass through an atmosphere containing poisonous gases or an atmosphere lacking sufficient oxygen to sustain life. Irrespirable atmospheres occur in coal mines as a result of methane explosions, coal dust explosions and combined gas and dust explosions.
    The first practical self-contained breathing apparatus was developed by an English marine engineer Henry Fleuss, who produced his first apparatus in 1878. This breathing apparatus was tested under practical conditions to explore Seaham Colliery in the United Kingdom following the 1880 explosion when 164 lives were lost and again at the Killingworth Colliery disaster, also in the United Kingdom in 1882, following another explosion. In England, the First Mines Rescue Station was set up at Tankersley in Yorkshire by the local Coal Owners Association in 1902.
    Here in this country, the Bureau of Mines was established on July 1, 1910 in response to the alarming number of fatal explosions and fires in U.S. underground coal mines. Bruceton, the Experimental Mine was opened and one of the early experiments demonstrated that coal dust by itself was capable of propagating an explosion, even in the absence of any methane gas.
    Mine post disaster survival and rescue was another concern of the young Bureau of Mines. Director Holmes initiated the equipping of railroad cars as movable safety and rescue stations. These cars toured the nationís coal fields training miners in first aid, rescue work, and mine safety. In a mining emergency the cars could be immediately dispatched to the accident scene. On October 30 Ė 31, 1911, the first National Mine Safety demonstrations were held in Pittsburgh. Nearly 2000 persons witnessed the demonstrations and exhibits and about 1200 persons visited the Bureauís experimental mine at Bruceton. At a public demonstration of mine rescue work, which was attended by President William H. Taft, about 15,000 persons, chiefly miners were present. President Taft handed Red Cross medals and first aid packages to the rescue team captains. 
    This is the 92nd year of the National Mine Rescue and First Aid Competition. For five days participants take part in a number of exciting and competitive events that showcase the world class skills of Americaís mine rescue teams. When this competition was first held in 1911, those who participated could not have guessed how much safety and rescue techniques would change over the years. The greatest achievement has been in the area of emergency response, with the establishment of mine rescue teams that can be quickly assembled and deployed to mine emergencies. 
    The mine rescue community is made up of men and women who are committed and dedicated, and who are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice. Mine rescuers truly are a special breed of people who will unselfishly put their lives on the line to assist a colleague in distress. There are very few professionals that share the unique bonds that exist in mining and in mine rescue. Coal Leader applauds all members of the mine rescue community, whether they participated in the recent National Mine Rescue, First Aid, Bench and Preshift contest or not, and thanks them for their hard work and for their continued dedication to mine rescue. These very special people contribute quietly and substantially to bringing greater safety and health to the nationís coal mines.


Bill Reid


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