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Southern California Departments Seek New SCBA Bids

Issue 2 and Volume 14.

A consortium of Southern California fire departments is once again seeking bids for a large municipal SCBA contract after the first award – believed to be the biggest in U.S. history – was nullified in court.

The new round of bidding will give Draeger Safety an opportunity to compete for the business, although company officials declined to comment.

A Reduction In Units

Draeger was unable to bid on the initial contract offering because it had not completed testing for compliance with revised 2007 National Fire Protection Association standards. However, Draeger is in a good competitive position after the Phoenix Fire Department selected its newest model for one of the largest municipal contracts last year. Draeger won an 800 unit order valued at more than $4 million.

The new Southern California consortium request for SCBA bids was issued Jan. 15 for 1,650 units – a significant reduction from the first contract for about 4,000 units valued at more than $20 million.

The first contract was awarded last June to L.N. Curtis & Sons, a Los Angeles fire equipment distributor for Sperian Fire. But that contract was voided last fall by California Judge James Chalfant, who found that the selection process was flawed, in part because performance evaluations of SCBA by firefighters were discounted by members of an oversight committee.

The judge ruled in response to challenges to the Sperian contract by Allstar Fire Equipment of Arcadia, Calif., a distributor for Scott Health & Safety, and by Mine Safety Appliances. Both companies argued the selection process was unfair because Los Angeles County officials, who administered the process on behalf of more than 30 fire departments in the consortium, did not follow their own rules or the law.

Sperian’s respiratory division, formerly known as Survivair, is based in Santa Ana, just south of Los Angeles. Seven consortium fire departments had been using Survivair SCBA, including the two largest departments, Los Angeles City and Los Angeles County.

When he ruled the Sperian contract invalid, Judge Chalfant ordered Los Angeles County officials to either reevaluate the bids or to start over. At the time, attorneys representing the county declined to comment on the ruling or to say what they would do.

Delivery Within 60 Days

The county’s new request, issued Jan. 15, says bids for SCBA must be submitted before noon on Feb. 12. County officials said they are seeking a three-year contract with three one-year options to order additional equipment at the quoted prices. Delivery of the initial 1,650 units is to be made within 60 days of the contract award.

Fire departments from around the country were watching the Southern California and Phoenix selection processes last year to see what they could learn about the new generation of SCBA that had to pass rigorous new NFPA testing standards.

Phoenix officials said they were surprised by Draeger’s winning performance because they did not know much about the company. Sperian placed second in the Phoenix evaluation, and MSA was third. Other manufacturers who submitted units were Scott, Avon-ISI and Interspiro.

The most important element of the Phoenix SCBA selection process, accounting for 40 percent of the scoring, was a “fit and function” evaluation by 30 firefighters who were selected to represent a cross-section of sizes, ages, genders, races and ranks.

The Southern California consortium request for proposals last year drew bids from just four manufacturers – Sperian, Scott, MSA and Interspiro – and price accounted for a higher percentage of the scoring than in Phoenix.

Paul House, Draeger’s responder group director, declined to predict whether the company would participate in the new round of Southern California bidding, saying, “We’re leaving our options open at the moment.” Draeger, he said, has a policy that prospective bids and contracts are not to be discussed outside the company.

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