By Ted Land
Channel 2 News
3:50 PM AKDT, May 22, 2012
The Anchorage Fire Department responded, Tuesday, to an investigative report which questioned the reliability of breathing packs used by AFD first responders.
“The Anchorage Fire Department has experienced difficulties with the Draeger Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) used by firefighters and other first responders,” an AFD statement read.
According to investigative reporting by the Atlanta Journal Constitution and WSB-TV, firefighters from Arizona to Alaska reported that mouthpieces on Draeger air packs fell apart, cutting off firefighters’ supply of fresh air.
Documents obtained by reporters show that the Anchorage Fire Department reported 44 failures with its Draeger units, less than two years after paying more than $1.5 million for the gear. The documents show a captain describing it as an annoying, ongoing problem.
“Mayor Sullivan, the Municipality of Anchorage, and AFD have been working on finding solutions with the manufacturer, Draeger, for nearly two months. One of the three issues reported have been successfully resolved. The AFD continues to work with Draeger on finding solutions,” the AFD statement read.
"There are definitely serious concerns that our guys have encountered. Many of these have been corrected and others are still being worked on," Rod Harris, president of IAFF 1264, the AFD union, told KTUU by email Tuesday.
Draeger responded to the reporting, Tuesday, saying that the problems experienced in Anchorage were non-critical, low-order issues that were not dangerous or life-threatening.
"At Draeger, we take our responsibilities to the firefighters we protect with the utmost seriousness. We would never do anything to put firefighters and other first responders in harm's way,” wrote Draeger CEO Ralf Drews.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, The CDC unit responsible for keeping an eye on workplace safety, confirms it is investigating the Draeger units.
Fire departments asked for the investigation, but a spokesperson for the Institute would not say which departments made the request.
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