Cherokee County Fire and Emergency Services will be able to test and repair its own breathing apparatus systems in the near future, thanks to an agreement approved by the Cherokee County Board of Commissioners.

At its most recent meeting, the board unanimously approved an agreement with Scott Safety, allowing the fire department to perform annual testing and repairs to their self-contained breathing apparatus units purchased from Scott. Under the agreement, the fire department will send a group of its firefighters to a Scott facility to receive specialized training in how to test and repair the more technical components of the breathing units. After completing the training, these firefighters will then be able to complete virtually all of the same work that, in the past, the agency has had to send devices back for, while also conducting annual testing to ensure each apparatus is functioning as it should.

Assistant Fire Chief Eddie Robinson said the agency has looked into doing this a few times in the past several years, but really got serious about it within the last year. There are actually two levels of training firefighters can obtain in order to perform repair work on the breathing units, according to Robinson. The first level, which he said a number of firefighters within the agency have already completed, allows them to make simple repairs, such as fixing a strapt. The second level, however, is what allows firefighters to handle the more complex parts, such as the components that regulate the air coming out of the tanks and the device’s PASS (Personal Alert Safety System) that alerts others if something should happen to the firefighter wearing the apparatus.

The current plan is to send one member of the fire department’s logistics division, one member of its training division and two members of field operations to receive the upper level training, Robinson explained. This training will be provided to the firefighters in attendance at no cost to the agency, although the fire department will have to cover general travel expenses. Robinson said these specific firefighters were chosen because of their role in handling the units, as the logistics officer manages the devices, the field operations members have assisted in maintaining the units and, as older devices are in use at the training center, the department included a member of the training division in order to more effectively manage the training packs.

Robinson said making repairs in-house will be much faster than the weeks it can take to send units back to Scott Safety for repairs.

Robinson said the equipment is increasingly important as more synthetic building materials are being used in modern construction, because smoke generated from many synthetic materials is far more toxic than that generated by natural materials like wood.

This agreement is also projected to be a cost savings to the county, with Robinson estimating that it could reduce testing and repair costs up to $20,000 for the first year of the agreement.

“We did a lot of homework before we started pursuing this,” Robinson said. “We feel confident this is the right thing to do.”

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