AUXILIARY FIRE ALARM SYSTEMS IN NEW YORK CITY.
Fire Commissioner Scannell has issued a statement with respect to the occasional allusions in some of the newspapers to certain fire alarm companies. He says: —
The charter of the city adopted in 1897, under which the fire commissioner is acting, requires that theatres, factories, hotels, institutions, etc., where a a large number of people are assembled, shall have direct connection with the fire department headquarters; and this is merely a restatement of the laws of 1885. The enforcement of the law in cases where the risk clearly requires additional protection, such as the commissioner is now undertaking, should be heartily commended. No one questions the wisdom of the enforcement of the law; but the fact that only two companies appear to be able to supply the requirements needed for complying with the law has been commented upon. The fire department is not responsible for this. So far as the fire commissioner is concerned, any one who can furnish electrical service directly from the interior of buildings to fire headquarters, under salisfnetory working conditions, can do so. The Special Fire Alarm Telegraph company has been in operation for many years, and has no competitor in its particular line, simply because no one else has thus far seen fit to incur the very large investment necessary to go into competition with it. The field, however, is not large enough to induce investment outside of those in business of that character. The Manhattan Fire Alarm company furnishes a different form of service—making its connections with fire department headquarters through the street boxes. The company received its license to do business in New York from the fire commissioners in 1895, under the administration of Mayor Strong. This company operates what is known as the Gamewell auxiliary fire alarm system. At the present time there are only four companies carrying on fire alarm service in this city. This department has heretofore held that only two of these companies gave a service which was in compliance with the charter law requiring means of communicating alarms of fire direct from the interiors of premises to the fire department. While it is the duty of the fire commissioner to enforce the law as he finds it, it is equally his duty to throw round such enforcement all the safeguards which the experience of the department has shown to be essential. The service of the two companies whose service has not been approved for the above purpose does not constitute a means of communicating alarms of fire direct to headquarters, for the reason that the nature of the service is such that the companies maintain their own central office and receive all alarms of fire at this central office before transmitting them to the headquarters of the fire department. To a certain extent, therefore, accuracy in receiving the alarm and transmitting it to the headquarters of the fire department is dependent upon a set of employes wholly without the control of this department, and notin any sense responsible to it. The loss of life and property which might be occasioned by any mistake on the part of such operators, who, as above stated, are without the jurisdiction of the fire department, makes the question of approval of such service by this department a very serious one, even though the construction of the charter law requiring a communication with headquarters did not make it necessary that such connection should be direct. With the service of the two companies which have been approved, however, the mere operation of any interior system sends the alarm direct to the headquarters of the department without the dangers of delay and mistake which would always be present were there an intermediate station, which would have to receive the alarm on one set of instruments and send it out on another set. As the business now exists, two companies only have a service, which for ninny reasons and more particularly for those stated, this department considers direct service, and one in which the factor of personal error Is wholly eliminated.