Chicago Tests Communications In Civil Defense Exercise

Chicago Tests Communications In Civil Defense Exercise

CHICAGO again was “atom-bombed” Wednesday April 18 in a civil defense exercise designed to try out communications facilities.

Walkie-talkies, mobile radios operated by Chicago radio amateurs, a helicopterequipped walkie-talkie, plus ground telephone communications were put into operation after an alert was received for a bomb subsequently “exploded” at 79th and South State streets on Chicago’s far southside.

Chicago’s plans for civil defense and one of its regularly scheduled exercises were described in the January and April issues of Fire Engineering. The latest test, involving the most men and equipment of any test so far, was designed to study and improve upon existing communications facilities.

The test undoubtedly further showed the need for a fire department radio system operating separately from the Chicago police radio system. Lack of funds has been the excuse given for the absence of a radio in Chicago’s fire alarm communications system. Several fire department officers and the three fireboats are equipped with two-way radios which operate through the police department system.

Fire Commissioner Michael J. Corrigan ordered the April 18 test for fire department equipment and personnel, which was limited to three of Chicago’s previously designated 13 dispersal stations.

The fire stations used in the 79th and State street test were Engine 129 at 8120 South Ashland avenue, Engine 120 at 11035 Homewood avenue, and Engine 126 at 7317 Kingston avenue. These stations were named in Special Order XXX of the Chicago Civil Defense Corps.

At 9:25 a.m., April 18, five minutes before the actual alert was transmitted, an attention department (Signal 3-3-4-1: Attention department, use telephone) was sent out on the telegraph sounder circuit. The alarm office notified all companies of the alert to be transmitted five minutes later.

At 9:30 a.m., Signal 9-9-9-9 was transmitted over the joker circuit and recorded on the registers in all fire stations. The signal was transmitted by striking nine blows four times with a long dash between each nine on the register.

Chicago transmits its box alarms manually and the strokes are received at fire stations by red ink dots on tape. Chicago Fire Department registers do not perforate the tape as many cities do.

Signal 9-9-9-9 sent Chief Anthony J. Mullaney, assistant fire commissioner and director of civil defense, to dispersal headquarters No. 11 at Engine 129’s house.

Chief Fire Marshal Jeremiah McAuliffe also reported to dispersal headquarters No. 11. Second Deputy Fire Marshal Thomas W. Powers took command at dispersal headquarters 12 at Engine 120’s quarters. Albert H. Petersen, also a second deputy fire marshal, went to dispersal headquarters 13 at Engine 126’s station and assumed command.

Battalion Chief Gerald J. Slattery reported to dispeysal headquarters No. 11 and assumed command. Also reporting to dispersal headquarters No. 11 was Deputy Fire Commissioner Maloney; John L. Fenn, director of fire safety; Rev. Monsignor Gorman, fire department chaplain, and Chief Frank C. McAuliffe of the Chicago Fire Insurance Patrols.

Between five and 23 minutes after the 9-9-9-9 signal was transmitted, the following fire equipment arrived at dispersal headquarters No. 11 from their regular stations: six engines, two hook and ladders, a rescue squad, one division marshal, three battalion chiefs, a gasoline wagon, and a mechanical service wagon. With the chief officers, this represented a total of 18 pieces of equipment and 69 fire department personnel, plus one fire insurance patrol with three fire insurance patrolmen.

The Commonwealth Edison company’s communications car No. 698 arrived at this dispersal station together with three water pipe extension trucks. Also responding to the dispersal station were eight amateur radio cars and four cars from the Illinois Bell Telephone company.

An official of the water department, a Chicago Transit Authority bus, to be used as a repair unit, a five-ton crane from the building department, a man from the state’s attorney’s office and two hired trucks also reported to dispersal station No. 11.

At dispersal headquarters No. 12, where Second Deputy Powers was in charge, six engines, a hook and ladder, a rescue squad, a fire department ambulance, two battalion chiefs arrived between seven and 15 minutes after Signal 9-9-9-9 was struck. This group totalled 10 pieces of fire equipment and 45 fire department personnel.

Four ham radio operators with their cars, two trucks from the water extension department, a sewer department emergency truck, plus units from the Illinois Bell Telephone company and Commonwealth Edison company also reported to dispersal headquarters No. 12.

Second Deputy Albert Petersen was in charge at dispersal headquarters No. 13. Between seven and 14 minutes after the 9-9-9-9 signal was struck, eight engines, four hook and ladders, a rescue squad, three battalion chiefs, two division marshals, two ambulances, a fire insurance patrol, and a fire department electric service car reported to the headquarters. Total here was 22 pieces of equipment and 99 department personnel.

Another four ham radio cars also were on hand at 9:30 a.m. each with two men. A water pipe extension truck, and one from the sewer department, plus an Illinois Bell Telephone repair truck with two men, and a plumbing inspector also arrived shortly after the 9-9-9-9 signal.

Civil Air Patrol Cooperates

At 9:30 a.m. a helicopter and several aircraft from the civil air patrol took off. They kept constant radio communication with the nerve center of the operation, the Chicago Park District’s administration building in Grant Park near Lake Michigan.

From this point all messages for help, rescue, and movements were relayed and directed with the aid of telephones, radio, and radio-telephone units in the cars of hams and in the planes.

Battalion Chief Edward E. Newell operated the two-way radio in the helicopter.

At 10 a.m., a hypothetical atomic air burst occurred, ground point zero, at 79th and State streets.

Anthony J. Mullaney, assistant fire commissioner, went to 87th street and Ashland avenue, and set up headquarters.

This intersection was one of 12 onemile spaced command posts on the perimeter of the blast area (see map).

Chief fire officers in command at the three dispersal headquarters dispatched their forces to the 12 command posts. Command post locations and equipment sent to each follow:

Twelve Command Posts

Command Post 1: 63rd street and Cottage Grove avenue: Two engines, a fire department ambulance, a ham radio car, and a police car equipped with twoway radio. Division Marshal Lyons was in charge of this group on the outer periphery of the bomb area.

Command Post 2: 71st street and Stony Island avenue: One engine, a hook” and ladder, two ham radio cars, a police radio-equipped squad cay. The chief of the ninth battalion was in charge.

Command Post 3: 79th street and Stony Island avenue: Two engines, a fire ambulance, a medical division unit, a ham radio car, a police radio car, and units from the water meter division and water pipe extension. Second Deputy Fire Marshal Albert Petersen was in charge here.

Command Post 4: 87th street and Stony Island avenue: One engine and one hook and ladder; two ham radio units, a police radio car, all under command of the 19th battalion chief.

Command Post 5: 95th street and Cottage Grove avenue: One engine, one fire rescue squad, two ham radio units, a police radio car. It was later found that radio communications at this post were very poor due to some type of radio interference. The 14th battalion chief was in charge here.

Command Post 6: 95th and State streets: Two engines, with Second Deputy Marshal Thomas W. Powers in charge.

Command Post 7: 95th and Halsted streets: One engine and a rescue squad under command of the 17th battalion chief.

Command Post 8: 87th street and Ashland avenue: One engine, one hook and ladder, and a fire department gasoline truck, all under command of the 12th battalion chief.

Post 8 was the field command post for Civil Defense Director Mullaney. In addition to two ham radio cars, a police radio car and Illinois Bell Telephone company mobile telephones was a walkie-talkie radio operated by Captain Hasnerel who operated in constant com munication with the helicopter walkietalkie operated by Chief Newell.

With Chief Mullaney at this post was John L. Fenn, director of Safety; Monsignor Gorman, fire department chaplain: Frank C. McAuliffe, chief of the fire insurance patrol, Captain Joseph J. McCarthy, director of Chicago’s fire department ambulance service; First Division Marshal Gibbons; Fourth Division Marshal Connors, and Sixth Division Marshal Joseph Flahive.

Command Post 9: 79th street and Ashland avenue: Two engines. This post was headquarters for Chief Fire Marshal Jeremiah McAuliffe who is the brother of Frank C. McAuliffe of the Chicago fire insurance patrols.

Battalion Chief Gerald Slattery was in charge of this command post although Chief McAuliffe made it his headquarters. Chief Slattery also operated a walkie-talkie radio and maintained contact with Chief Newell in the helicopter. Radio reception was reported as satisfactory.

Command Post 10: 71st street and Ashland avenue: One engine, and one rescue squad undey direction of the Eighth Battalion Chief.

Command Post 11: 63rd and Halsted street: Two engines and Fire Insurance Patrol 4. These units were in charge of an acting fifth division marshal.

Command Post 12: 63rd and State streets (the site of the disastrous streetcar-gasoline truck crash a year ago when 33 persons were burned to death). Two engines and a hook and ladder were here under command of the 16th battalion chief.

Other fire equipment which moved on the alert was Engine 58, the Fireboat Victor L. Schlaeger, one of the city’s new fireboats. Engine 58 proceeded to the breakwater in Lake Michigan from its berth at the 92nd street bridge.

Engine company 129 and hook and ladder 50 remained in dispersal headquarters No. 11.

Engine 120 and hook and ladder 24 remained in dispersal headquarters No. 12.

Engine company 126 and hook and ladder 49 remained in dispersal headquarters No. 13.

These three engines and three hook and ladders remained in their home stations while equipment which reported to their stations on the 9-9-9-9 signal went to the command posts.

After the fire equipment and radio cars arrived at the command posts from the three dispersal headquarters they deployed to nearby intersections. Communications were then made between Chief Muilaney’s post, between command posts, and the primary control center. All messages and orders were logged by division executives at primary control as a record of the exercise and for subsequent study.

Equipment Changes Quarters

To cover the large southside area left depleted of fire apparatus which was taking part in the exercise, the following equipment changed quarters:

Engine 9-Engine 63; Engine 21-45; Engine 25-61; Engine 28-64; Engine 2954; Engine 75-62; Engine 101-93. Hook and ladder 9 went to hook and ladder 15’s quarters and hook and ladder 31 changed to hook and ladder 16’s station.

The chief of the 25th battalion changed quarters to the 19th battalion and the chief of the 12th battalion moved into the 17th battalion headquarters.

Ambulance 1 changed to Ambulance 4’s house at Engine 50 and Ambulance 8 moved into Engine 121’s quarters.

Light Wagon 3 changed quarters to the Englewood Fire Alarm Office, one of the city’s two fire alarm offices. All civil defense action in this test (except for the company changes) took place in the Englewood office’s alarm district which lies south of Pershing Road (39th street).

It is believed that the light wagon could supply emergency electric power to either of the fire alarm offices in case of a power failure during an actual atomic attack. Chicago has three light wagons.

Drillmaster James Furlong, who holds the rank of division marshal, changed quarters to the main fire alarm office on the sixth floor of the City Hall and was acting fire commissioner in the event of an extra alarm fire during the test.

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Fifty-six pieces of fire equipment took part in this test operation and 15 pieces were relocated to areas stripped of necessary fire protection. There were 217 fire department personnel taking part in the operation and 289 off-duty men reported back for the exercise.

At each of the command posts was at least one and often two ham radio operator cars. Police radio-equipped cars also were at each command post. In addition, five public telephones were designated at each command post and actual calls were put through all of them for the operation. The phones were in gasoline stations, taverns, floral shops, and other public or semi-public places.

Communications from the command posts to the primary control center, both by police radio cars and amateur ham radios was termed “fair.” All command posts were united by a joint telephone system which ringed the imaginary disaster area.

The helicopter to ground walkie-talkie radios operated “very good”; telephone communications, both public and mobile, were “very good.” according to Chief Gerald J. Slattery’s report.

His report recommended that parking of privately-owned automobiles around dispersal headquarters should be discouraged. This causes delay to incoming units. Chief Slattery explained.

At 11:05 a.m. the operation civil defense was terminated and all fire units were ordered to return to their quarters.

At the primary control center in the Park District administration building, William E. Downes, commanding officer, reported that everything went according to plan except for one minor difficulty. He said a shortage of telephones could not handle the many calls which came in during the exercise.

Thirty-five men, some of them manning telephone headsets and others monitoring radio and radio-telephone messages were in the large first-floor control room. There were 48 telephones in use.

Messages received included reports of commanders of the 12 command posts as they arrived at the posts and reported in service. The primary control center also monitored the walkie-talkie transmissions between Chief Newell in the helicopter and those walkietalkies on the ground.

Following are excerpts between the helicopter and Chief Mullaney taken from the radio logs in the control center:

At 10:15 the helicopter reported to Mullaney that the blast scene was sighted.

“10:15 from Mullaney—Restrict the area, name streets. Reply—79th and State streets is the center.

“10:17 from helicopter—A lot of people are t.rapped in Hamilton Park at 73rd and Normal. They can’t get out.

“From Mullaney—How many? Why can’t they get out?

“From Helicopter—Debris is blocking all adjacent streets.

“From Mullaney—Okay, will notify services, will get them out.

“10:19 from helicopter—Obvious water burst at 83rd and Racine sighted. Watch water pressure.

“Reply’ from Mullaney—Okay.”

Following are other excerpts from the radio log in the control center:

“10 a.m.—Control to all units, proceed to your posts.

“10:26 a.m.—Call medical units, proceed transportation, pick up refugees.

“10.35 a.m.—All phones restored to se.rvice at 79th street and Ashland avenue. (The Stewart telephone exchange was presumed out of order.)

“10:42 a.m.—To post Number 8: Box lunches for 1,000 men to be distributed at command post at regimental report points.

“10:59 a.m.—Chief requests that Post 4 be notified all clear.

“11:00 a.m.—To all fire units, go to respective stations, order of Chief Mullaney.

“11:05 a.m.—All fire units have returned to their stations.

“11:10 a.m.—Attention all mobile units, alert over.”

Chief Mullaney said he was generally satisfied with the handling of messages. Mullaney sent out messages over the communications system to cope with emergencies such as major fires, bridges knocked out, electric wires down, panics, and water failures.

There were no accidents involving fire equipment during the test. All fire department personnel were instructed before the test that vehicles must observe regular traffic regulations, travel at below-limit speeds, and heed all traffic signals. Only the bells on fire equipment were allowed to be used.

During the exercise several other box alarms of fire were received. One of them was a 2-11 alarm blaze at Wood and Walnut streets on the west side but was quickly brought under control.

Before the alert more than 50,000 school children went on a special atom bomb drill. They marched to shelters previously designated. The welfare section of the Chicago civil defense corps activated four reception points, two of them in school buildings, and shuttled ambulances between the points and the bomb blast scene.

Out of the communications test a report of weaknesses and recommendations were to be made for a future test.

On April 24 the communications committee issued a preliminary memorandum giving “on a broad basis without benefit of details comments by the various divisions” of the civil defense corps their suggestions, comments, and criticisms of the communications setup as it existed during the test.

Following is the substance of the committee’s report:

The use of a PBX board should be eliminated. The PBX operators involved in the test performed well but incoming calls had to be challenged and distributed. This resulted in waste of time.

All incoming calls to the primary control center should come into a battery of telephone instruments having consecutive telephone numbers. On this basis, the operators assigned to these telephones would work as a team and a much larger volume of traffic could be handled. It would be desirable that these operators be able to record the calls in shorthand and that stenographers be assigned to type the messages since, in many cases, the incoming calls affect more than one division.

In addition, each division of the corps should have two representatives on duty with two telephones assigned. One telephone would be arranged for incoming only service and the other for outgoing only service.

The director of the control center should have an assistant and have telephone facilities as outlined above.

Each of the public utility companies (telephone, gas, and electric) should have telephone facilities as outlined above.

Eight radio channels were used in the test. Additional channels will be required in the future. For example, it would be very desirable under attack conditions that the fire department have a short wave radio similar to that used by the Chicago police department.

It would appear that a system of this type could be justified under normal conditions although this matter is outside the scope of defense activities. Also, the grid point amateur radio operators, if possible, should have facilities for transmitting and receiving on two frequencies. When all reports are in. it is conceivable that additional frequencies and facilities could be justified for other divisions of the corps.

Trained messengers should be on duty at the primary control center.

Large maps of Chicago should be mounted in the primary control center so that movement of equipment in the field could be recorded and observed by the division representatives and director on duty. Trained personnel should be available to chart conditions bymeans of colored pins or other suitable means. For this purpose a color code is suggested:

Blue—Public works and communications.

Orange—Transportation, traffic, and engineering services.

Green—Public safety.



Red—Staff services.

In the future, overall coordination and direction of activities should be from the primary control center. On this basis there would be no field headquarters. During the April 18 test, orders were issued from the field headquarters that could not be recorded conveniently with the result that some confusion .resulted when subsequent orders were issued.

The report made the following general comments:

An operational manual should be prepared covering all details of communications available and their use.

The telephones at all grid points in Chicago should be published in manual form and placed in the hands of those requiring this information. The difficult part of this project is the problem of keeping the information current. However, this problem could be surmounted if distribution were confined to key personnel in the fire department and the control centers.

Present plans contemplate connecting all command posts with a magneto telephone line (army field type) by running wire between posts. This plan should be revised to use telephone cable pairs to the extent they are available since the work could be completed more rapidly.

Each grid point in Chicago should be identified in advance by using an auxiliary sign mounted above the regular street signs or by stenciling on the curb.

A communications center should be set up at each command post. This would require the telephone company to extend the grid point telephones to outdoor locations as rapidly as possible after a bomb blast. Under attack conditions, coins probably would not be required for operation of the grid point telephones.

At this location there should be also an amateur mobile operator and a police mobile operator.

Initially it appears that the fire department should control the communications center at each command post but that as soon as possible this function should be transferred to a communications man to be dispatched to the scene.

On this basis, the fire department would be free to handle its normal functions and the communications center could remain intact until it were necessary to move it a considerable distance toward or away from the devastated area.

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