Air pack company suggests changes to fire chief

by: Erica Byfield Updated:

Flaw found with air packs.

DEKALB COUNTY, Ga.,None - The company that manufactures the breathing equipment Dekalb County firefighters said can fail sent a letter to the chief requesting he make some changes.

Channel 2 Action News obtained the letter from Tim Martin, Draeger's vice president of sales and service.

Martin suggested DeKalb Fire Chief Edward O'Brien implement a five-phase plan.

One phase calls for the inspection of all of the county's breathing equipment.

The letter reads, "Draeger trained technician(s) shall visit DeKalb FD and shall, with the cooperation of DeKalb FD personnel, systematically inspect, clean and test each of the FD's SCBA units" or air packs.

An air pack provides firefighters with clean oxygen while fighting fires.

Kevin Cavanaugh, the union secretary for Local 1492, told Channel 2's Erica Byfield his members do not want repaired equipment.

"We don't have the confidence in the packs and the members don't have the trust in the packs, and in our line of business, that is not something we are prepared do." Cavanaugh said. "We need to be able to trust our equipment."

Draeger also requested to retrain all of DeKalb's firefighters and ride along with them for several days so the company's staff can observe how the firefighters use the equipment in an average shift.

Another request asked DeKalb's fire chief to implement a new maintenance program. The letter states the following: "Draeger shall provide a plan/roadmap for establishing and implementing a maintenance program – including overall operating procedures, personnel requirements, training requirements, recommended tools and supplies and documentation needs."

Previously, Martin told Byfield the issue happening in DeKalb is not the equipment, rather it's the maintenance.

After reading the letter, DeKalb's chief operating officer questioned who is going to cover the cost of the repairs and training.

"I think from looking at the letter that they are proposing to charge us for that, I don't know if that is appropriate or not.

Obviously, we are considering all the alternatives in terms of the county's position on this," Richard Stogner said.

DeKalb's commissioners will vote whether to buy the firefighters new air packs on Tuesday.