The breathing air packs the Albany Fire Department used until Tuesday were purchased in 1997.
"Since the time we purchased the other packs we've had several new standards implemented through the national fire protection association that we were behind," says Asst. Fire Chief Allen Cravey.
They recently purchased updated packs for nearly $880,000 total thanks to lots of pennies from the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST). The fire department received them on Tuesday and began switching out the old ones.
Cravey says the new packs hold 45 minutes worth of air versus 30 minutes and have a device that will alert the team if a firefighter has been unresponsive for more than 20 seconds.
"The air packs are the most important equipment we carry on the truck in relation to the firefighter's safety," he says.
Chief Ron Rowe says the fire department received some public comments about them needing 200 new breathing air packs when the public says they only see 20 firefighters at a time. Rowe says many people don't know how many employees they actually have who need this equipment.
"We have 172 personnel... Of course we have three shifts, so they're not deployed all at the same time," says Rowe. He says they also have "one for each seat on each truck to cover the entire 340 square miles that we cover as well as a training division where we don't want to take equipment out of service to train our personnel."
Cravey says spare air packs are kept in case of an emergency or for off duty and volunteer firefighters when they arrive on a scene.
He says the SPLOST funds are a way of the citizens giving them the equipment needed to perform their job better and better serve the public; otherwise he says they don't know where the $880,000 would have come from to purchase the equipment needed by this year.