Alarm Service in Civil Defense

Alarm Service in Civil Defense

THE oldest form for transmission of messages over long distances dates back to the early ages of man. Code was transmitted by sound or vision, and interpreted by the receiver. The heliograph, tom-tom, smoke signal and church BELL were examples of this. The Morse telegraph was the first of these to achieve the basic functions of dependability, ease of use, speed and simplicity.

The value of the telegraph as a means of notifying some one at a distance that help was wanted, or to advise that a person was on duty, was quickly recognized, and the fire alarm telegraph system, police telegraph system and various other systems were born. These systems made use of code numbers, consisting of dots, spaced so they could be counted.

Modifications of the code transmission have been brought about, in part due to the lack of knowledge of Morse code by senders and receivers. These modifications are exemplified by the teletype and the telautograph, which combine greater flexibility with a permanent record.

Code Transmission Augmented by Telephone and Radio

The next step in giving a flexibility which placed signaling service in the hand of the multitude was the telephone, where the voice took the place of code or symbols.

The latest entrant in the field of communication service is the radio, which permits code signals and voice transmission and has other possibilities.

Each of these various forms of signaling has advantages and disadvantages. Each has been developed largely along one line, and while there is overlapping of functions and performance, no one system of signaling can be considered as overshadowing the others in the entire field of signaling service.

The telegraph signaling system has several inherent qualities which make it a very desirable agent for the transmission of distress signals. These qualities have justified the continuation of the use of telegraphic code signals in the fire alarm field. The outstanding qualities were the ability to provide a point of sending which would be available to the public, to have equipment which was not delicate and would remain usable for long periods of time without care, to indicate in a readily understandable manner the location of the call, and to permit quick resumption of service if interruption should occur. The value of these qualities has been recognized not only by those signaling engineers employed by the municipalities but by those private companies who render fire protection signaling service. An existing telephone in each warden’s district, preferably one near a corner, will be recognized by the telephone company as an emergency phone. Provisions will be made so that all other phones can be killed at the exchange if desired.

Motorcycle Messengers Serve in the London (England) Civil Defense Set-Up

For civilian defense there are several items which have to be considered. One of paramount importance is the cost of installation and of operation. Another, and probably a controlling one, is that civilian defense is not a simple matter of calling the fire department. It involves the probability of transmitting a mass of information not only as to fires but also bombing, police, rescue, road clearance, utilities, etc., which cannot be handled by code numbers. A third consideration is that civilian defense plans could not be built on the basis of each individual community, but must provide for large areas. The fire alarm telegraph systems did not lend themselves to this. A fourth reason for using the telephone system for the basis of signaling service in civilian defense was that much of the needed equipment was already installed and additions could be readily provided.

The understanding as to the arrangement for the use of the telephone are:

A control center where a suitable number of lines will be run in from the telephone exchange, or from two or more exchanges where possible. This number of lines will take care of incoming calls originating in the telephone system, and will provide outgoing lines to all essential operating departments needed for civilian defense. Special lines to industries, schools, etc., will be provided as requested by the local head of civilian defense. In larger communities there may be sub-control centers to expedite the dispatch of emergency work. There may be a reserve control center, to which the personnel could be shifted, which could provide equal service.

Under extreme air raid conditions it is thus evident that the means of transmitting telephone messages from any part of the city to the control center or to any city department will consist of these wardens’ phones, and probably some from important industries and schools.

There will be in many cities, a fire alarm telegraph system and a police alarm system, which extends directly to their respective headquarters, and in some instances to the control center.

No definite requirements have been laid down as to permissible use of police radio from prowl cars, but it is assumed it may still be used, although other radios may be cut out.

Sending of Aalrms Minimized by Presence of Wardens

During air raids, wardens are patrolling the streets, and others are supposed to be indoors. Eventually the wardens are to be provided with hand pump tanks and it will be their duty to aid the householder in extinguishing fires.

With only the wardens, the police and the auxiliaries on the street, there should be little sending in of alarms, either by telephone or by fire alarm, except that done by the warden. Under most conditions it would be desirable for the warden to transmit fire alarms by telephone, as often additional needed information can be given. However, if such cannot be conveniently done, or the telephone is out of service, the fire alarm telegraph should be used for fires, and the police telephone system for other information.

It was thought by some that amateur radios would be of value in connection with air raids, but apparently the possible use of the radio to give aid to the enemy has overshadowed the value for communication. So far there has been no ban placed upon the police radio; its very general use during an air raid appears somewhat questionable; it certainly should be kept in service and used when no other means of communication is available.

It cannot be contradicted that at time of an air raid, communication is an essential for protection of life and property. With all of the possibilities for the disruption of any communication system, it is of the greatest need to have as many possible ways of transmitting messages as can be readily arranged. In some cases bicycle or foot messenger service must be resorted to.

With the above in mind, it is next advisable to see in what way all of the available means of communication can be incorporated into a whole, and not have overlapping and interference in the transmission of information on which operations are to be based.

hirst, on the basis of the warden’s telephone being the primary means of keeping the control center and the fire department informed of conditions, it is essential that the public be educated not to transmit alarms for trivial fires, and an incendiary bomb is a trivial fire until the building in which it falls becomes so involved as to be beyond control of the facilities which the wardens have and endangers other buildings. This means that the citizen should not telephone the alarm in, nor send a call from a fire alarm box. The telephone company may have made it impossible for the person to telephone the alarm, by cutting off phones not reserved for the wardens. It may be necessary for the warden to place an auxiliary policeman or fireman, or detail some one else, at each fire alarm box and police box, to prevent its general use. It is believed that during an air raid few people other than the wardens will be on the street. Also that the wardens will know of most bomb hits and will be at work on those which are most serious. As it will be recognized that he is in command, others will leave it to him to assume the responsibility of deciding when and how to call the fire department.

Emergency Messages Are Received and Handled at the Control Center


Because of space limitations, it has been necesary to withhold the current installment of “Practical Training for Auxiliary Firemen” from this issue. The series will be resumed in the July issue and, it is hoped, will be continued thereafter without interruption. The Editor

The control center is the point where all information, applying to every condition in the territory, which may in any way require attention will be collected. At the center there must he a representative of the fire department. It is not essential that this control center be the actual point from which the fire department will he controlled and operated. In fact in the larger cities it would not he possible.

Incidents concerning the fire department will be passed on to fire department or fire alarm headquarters, and from that point the necessary assignment of apparatus will be made. Thus the fire department will receive much needed information as well as alarms from the control center, and may also get alarms from the fire alarm system and still alarms at fire stations. There can be constant communication between the control center and the headquarters used by the fire department, tints assuring full knowledge at both points of all happenings. The fire chief and his staff know their city and therefore are best able to know the seriousness of any incident that may be reported. The control center may have several communities in his area, and it would he to him that requests for outside aid would he handled.

Normal Running Card Discarded

During air raids, the normal running card will he discarded. Not more than one piece of apparatus would he sent to any first alarm, The auxiliary fire department would be used in residential areas in preference to the regular equipment and men, who would be used in high value areas, and where fires threaten to become conflagrations.

Many volunteer and other fire departments use outside sounding devices, such as hells, whistles, sirens, etc., to advise its members that there is a fire or as to the location of the fire. For these conditions it will be necessary to discontinue the use of such outside devices during an air raid or a blackout, The regular firemen and all auxiliary firemen should have definite assignments as to where to go immediately upon the receipt of an air raid or blackout. Enough firemen must respond to each fire station to adequately man each piece of apparatus in service and reserve, and auxiliary firemen must be pressed into service to fill out the company strength if necessary, and to man reserve or civilian defense apparatus. As in the case of paid departments, only one piece should respond to a fire unless in the opinion of the chief or the control center, more apparatus is needed.

Finally, it must be recognized that under bombing conditions, even more than normal times, planning before hand is essential and every man in the fire service, including the fire alarm men, must realize that conditions will require the utmost of effort, with the maximum of use of such auxiliary forces and apparatus as may be available.

As a final word, it is imperative that those in authority have full knowledge of events, including fires, and to remember that fire bombs are not the only cause of fire during an air raid.

No posts to display