PITTSBURGH — Draeger Safety, Inc. this morning issued the following statement from CEO Ralf Drews:
"We truly do not appreciate the misleading news report broadcast last night by WSB-TV in Atlanta. The report suggests that our Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) used by firefighters and other first responders is faulty and is prone to breakdown and that we have been somehow insensitive to the safety of firefighters.
"Nothing could be further from the truth.
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"We serve more than 1,500 fire departments in the United States and thousands more around the world. The safety of Draeger breathing equipment is demonstrated every day by first responders, mine rescue teams, U.S. Navy SEALS, U.S. Army and others, and we would not want anyone to use it if we believed it to be unsafe. We are deeply committed to each and every firefighter who relies on our SCBAs for their protection and safety. WSB's sensationalistic approach to its broadcast report last night could cause fear and anxiety among our users, and therefore impact their ability to do their jobs. We simply cannot allow that to go unchallenged.
"Our major concerns with the WSB story are, firstly, how it lumps different categories of product care together to create the false impression that our equipment is not safe and, secondly, how the interview with one of our executives was edited to create the impression that he made an admission that he in fact did not make — because there was and is nothing to admit.
"Concerning the issues reported in DeKalb County (Georgia), we have attempted to replicate the alleged instances of product malfunction by DeKalb firefighters but could not. Technicians analyzed our equipment but could find nothing wrong with its engineering or design.
"The only conclusion we can draw is that the reports of product malfunction in DeKalb County stem from improper product maintenance and care.
"As with all manufacturers serving the Fire Safety market, we give our customers detailed instructions for the proper maintenance and care of our equipment. Fire departments using our breathing equipment must have procedures in place to insure that proper maintenance and care are carried out on a routine basis. In our investigation of the alleged incidents in DeKalb County, we have determined that the fire department did not follow proper maintenance and care policies. It seems that some in the fire department's leadership have chosen to blame the manufacturer for difficulties created by the failure to take proper care of the equipment provided to DeKalb firefighters.
"Concerning the allegations that fire departments in Phoenix (Arizona), Anchorage (Alaska) and Vancouver (British Columbia) also experienced potentially disastrous problems with our SCBAs, we believe that the problems experienced in those fire departments were noncritical, low-order issues that may happen with any product and are not in any way dangerous or life-threatening to firefighters, with two exceptions.
"The two exceptions we are aware of arose in Phoenix, where we did a thorough investigation of the incidents and found that the cause stemmed from improper field use of the equipment. Again, no design flaws were at issue.
"We don't question WSB's right or duty to cover newsworthy events potentially impacting firefighters in the Atlanta area. But we specifically refute the false impressions that WSB's story conveys.
"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.
"Indeed, we are compelled by our commitment to firefighters, in Georgia, across the country and around the world, to speak out unambiguously now. The report last night on WSB-TV was misleading and over-sensationalized. We stand by the integrity of our equipment. And we will mount a strong rebuttal initiative to counteract the false impressions created by the report."