Denver Gets First TV License Issued to a Fire Department
Lights! Action! Camera! Sounds like a Hollywood sound stage, right? Well, you could be wrong. It might just as easily be the Denver Fire Department’s Television Studio. Located at our fire alarm office, and manned by trained fire department personnel, they are most likely in the process of filming a training session, physical fitness program, or informational feature which will be broadcast to our 935 fire fighters at 29 locations throughout the city. Receivers are also located at civil defense headquarters, six police substations, and in many surrounding metropolitan fire departments.
Denver received the first television license ever issued to a fire department for public safety broadcasting. Our first broadcast was made January 30, 1970. Every afternoon, five days a week, Denver fire fighters tune their television sets to “KHW 35—America’s First Public Safety Television Station,” and receive individual instructions in the most current fire service methods, techniques and products. Through the media of television, it is possible to personally contact all department members in only five days—a task which, in the past, could have taken as long as nine months.
The scope of subject matter is almost limitless. Programming can be as diverse as the imagination and ingenuity of our production staff. Our studio lighting rates topnotch, and has the proper heat and color balance necessary for color programming, which we hope to go to next year. Denver’s top “man behind the camera” is Larry Way, our superintendent of fire alarm, who played a major role in making it possible for us to achieve our TV system.
Presently, our major emphasis is on training. The fire department training program is undoubtedly the most important single factor in producing and maintaining a high level of efficiency in any fire department. It not only produces high efficiency at the present time, but the training our men are receiving now affects their efficiency for years to come. Remember, the youngest recruit today may be the fire chief in 25 years. Department evolutions, fire fighting tactics, new equipment or new methods, as well as fire prevention instructions can be filmed for viewing and re-viewing by members.
Prior to TV, only those men who actually fought a fire were able to learn from their experiences. Even these men did not get a good overall picture, but were limited to what occurred in their own particular area of operation. Now, through the use of TV, critiques are presented on each of our major fires. Everyone is able to observe and learn how the fire was fought, see what techniques were used and where mistakes were made, for we learn from our mistakes.
Monitor covers the fireground
With a TV monitor at ground level, it is possible to view an entire fire scene, showing apparatus placement, exposures, and fire fighting progress from one central command location. I believe an aerial view to a TV monitor in my command post would prove invaluable. This would allow me to observe for possible structural collapse and order my men to safety from dangerous locations. I am currently exploring the possibility of using a cityowned helicopter for this purpose.
Television has also enabled us to come up with a solution for the communication gap. We have a short weekly program called “From the Chiefs Desk.” I used to have all battalion chiefs report to my office daily, where new orders were issued or directives would be discussed—a time-consuming and tedious task. Each battalion chief would then make the rounds of the stations in his district, telling the officers what I had said, usually adding his own philosophy. The station officers then relayed the message to the fire fighters, and in many cases, you wouldn’t recognize the original story. Now, with TV, each man hears directly from me exactly what I want him to know. This weekly presentation, requiring only a short time to film, provides direct communication with all members, helps to stop the rumor mill, and has proven to be a very valuable tool in helping eliminate the communication gap between the men and the directives from my office.
Guest experts taped
Guest speakers and nationally known experts can come in and make one TV program in our studio, which can then be broadcast numerous times. Recently, we had the opportunity of’presenting the Jules Bergman program, “Close-Up on Fire,” to our personnel, through special arrangements with our local ABC-TV affiliate.
We sincerely believe that here in Denver we have only scratched the surface of the potential and eventual use of the television media. Each new idea seems to lead to another and another.
In the not-too-distant future, I can envision a national fire service training center, perhaps in Washington, D.C., where educational training films could be developed. Such a center would make available, at relatively low cost, a high quality of training material on an equal basis to fire departments of all sizes.
Here in Denver, we have experienced the exceptional values of the television media in the fire service. We plan to continue our exploration of the many aspects and innovations which can be integrated into our future planning to create a more complete and positive coverage of fire department matters for the benefit of all our members.