• Draeger: Air pack issue stems from poor maintenance

    By: Erin Coleman


    ATLANTA - A Channel 2 Action News investigation exposed problems with some firefighters' breathing equipment in DeKalb County and across the country.

    Friday morning, the manufacturer returned to Atlanta to defend its product.

    Several executives and staff from Draeger spent the morning demonstrating their firefighter air packs and revealing a new section of the company's website to address our recent investigation into firefighter complaints that the breathing packs sometimes fail on them.

    "The product that is out there has passed, met and exceeded all applicable standards, has been thoroughly tested and is in use at over 1,500 fire departments in the U.S.," VP of Sales and Service Tim Martin said.

    DeKalb County started using the air packs in 2009.

    A Channel 2 Action News investigation uncovered similar problems in other departments across the country, but Draeger told DeKalb County it was alone with the issues.

    Martin blames the problems on poor maintenance. He believes the issues in other departments were different and not life threatening.

    "We've preached the absolute importance of understanding how to use the SCBA and how to maintain it performing daily checks," he said.

    Tuesday, Channel 2's Erin Coleman interviewed the latest firefighter to have a near miss.

    Kevin Cavanaugh, the secretary/treasurer of the DeKalb firefighters union, said he did a routine check of his air pack and found it was operating properly. He said he had maintained it properly, but the air pack still failed inside a burning home.

    "The feeling in the field is the clock is ticking before we have a catastrophic event," Cavanaugh said.

    DeKalb County and a fire department in Phoenix, Ariz., have decided to use a different manufacturer.

    The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, a federal agency, has opened an investigation into the air packs.

    Draeger representatives say they are fully cooperating. They declined to go into detail about problems experienced by other departments.


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