A CBS Atlanta News Tough Questions investigation uncovered more than 18,000 counterfeit smoke detectors bought by AFRD and given to people in low-income, high-risk fire areas since 2006.
AFD is starting a massive campaign to recall the counterfeit smoke detectors, and now the Federal Bureau of Investigation has launched their own investigation.
CBS Atlanta reporter Jennifer Mayerle alerted Chief Kelvin Cochran the moment CBS Atlanta News believed the detectors were counterfeit.
Before Cochran addressed the rest of the media, he sat down with Mayerle to talk candidly about our investigation.
"First I want to start by saying thank you for your investigative reporting tenacity that led to the discovery of these counterfeit smoke alarms," said Cochran. "My initial reactions were frustration, disappointment [and] anger that over five years of a very aggressive fire prevention campaign to install smoke alarms in the residences in the city of Atlanta was possibly thwarted due to initially the possibility for counterfeit smoke alarms."
CBS Atlanta revealed the city bought the smoke detectors from a crooked company in California led by career criminal Bob Silver and his wife Judy. Both have spent time in prison for also selling counterfeit smoke detectors to the federal government.
"We've just discovered, again through your work, that we've been duped by a faulty manufacturer and a faulty vendor. Our efforts all along has been that everything that we're doing is authentically geared toward the life safety of the residents of the city of Atlanta and, until recently, we've discovered differently," said Cochran.
"Do you think the fire department did its due diligence when it did business with Silver Sails and bought these smoke detectors?" Mayerle asked Cochran.
"I believe we did Jennifer. We followed the city of Atlanta's policies and procedures," said Cochran.
The counterfeit smoke detectors have a fake hologram UL label on the back. Another distinguishing mark is three sets of five slotted vents on the front of the detector.
Mayerle showed the state fire marshal the counterfeit detector on Wednesday. Dwayne Garriss raised tough questions about the label on the back immediately.
"It looks like it has a listing, but normally UL has a number that it's listed to, not just listed. It usually has a product test number," said Garriss.
Mayerle asked Cochran, "If the state fire marshal could realize within 10 seconds of looking at it there was something wrong with it, why didn't firefighters realize it five years ago?"
"I would assume the state fire marshal has a level of awareness and knowledge of UL labels that a fire chief or firefighters normally do not have," said Cochran.
As a result of this investigation, Cochran said knowing what to look for on a smoke detector label will become part of the training for the Atlanta Fire Rescue Department. Cochran also said he'll share the information with departments around the country.
"It gave those residents a false sense of security. It gave our men and women that were installing those smoke alarms a false sense of security, and it's given me as fire chief a false sense of security. That's why we have this tremendous sense of urgency that we've got to fix this as soon as possible," said Cochran.
The fire department has established a recall hotline to call if you think you have a counterfeit smoke detector.
The number is 404-546-2733 or you can email firstname.lastname@example.org. The fire department is working with Federal Emergency Management Agency as well as smoke detector companies to get replacements quickly.
Even though the FBI is investigating, Atlanta is also considering legal options, including talking to the state's attorney general's office.
Friday, May 24 2013 5:59 PM EDT2013-05-24 21:59:04 GMT
A shuttle bus has been involved in an accident on North Loop Road near the Air Tran hanger.A tractor trailer bus hit a hotel shuttle bus.CBS Atlanta News is working to gather details. Refresh this storyMore >
An airport shuttle bus was involved in an accident on North Loop Road near the Southwestern Airline Maintenance hangar.More >
Friday, May 17 2013 7:16 PM EDT2013-05-17 23:16:53 GMT
One person has died in a crash near Harrisonville, MO, Thursday evening. The crash happened on Missouri Highway 7 and Walker Road. It involved a car and a tractor-trailer. Harrisonville is in Cass County.More >
Savannah Nash celebrated her 16th birthday last week. She died Thursday when her car slammed into a semi while she was texting during her first time driving by herself.More >
Friday, May 24 2013 11:09 AM EDT2013-05-24 15:09:07 GMT
Police in Conyers are searching for a man suspected of shoplifting.Police said the man is described as between 20-30 years old, 5'2", with a slight build and short hair, wearing a black shirt and jeans.TheMore >
The suspected shoplifter who lead police on a car chase Wednesday has been captured.More >
Friday, May 24 2013 7:39 AM EDT2013-05-24 11:39:32 GMT
Palmetto police department is investigating an attempted abduction that occurred Wednesday afternoon. A 13 year old male got off of the school bus along Carlton Road and stated to police that a man approachedMore >
Palmetto Police Department is investigating an attempted abduction that occurred Wednesday afternoon. More >
Wednesday, May 22 2013 6:39 PM EDT2013-05-22 22:39:41 GMT
A Decatur woman who was out with friends in Nashville, Tennessee during a bachelorette party is recovering at the Shepherd Spinal Center in Atlanta, after being hit by a suspected drunk driver the nightMore >
A Decatur woman who was out with friends in Nashville, Tennessee during a bachelorette party is recovering at the Shepherd Spinal Center in Atlanta, after being hit by a suspected drunk driver the night of the party.More >