Mutual Aid Center Built By Cooperation
Volunteer, paid firemen enjoy county facilities
A modern control center at Plattsburgh, N. Y., Fire Headquarters is the product of the combined efforts of county and city fire officials to improve the fire communications network serving both the Clinton County mutual aid system and the Plattsburgh Fire Department.
Clinton County covers 1,059 square miles at the extreme northeastern tip of New York State and has a population of 77,200. Plattsburgh, the county seat, is on Lake Champlain, 20 miles south of the Canadian border.
In 1953, the County Hoard of Supervisors installed a two-frequency fire radio system in the county sheriff’s office. But it was soon moved to Plattsburgh Fire Headquarters. This was the beginning of organized mutual aid in the county. At this time, there were 15 fire departments and 25 pieces of fire apparatus in Clinton County.
A decade later, there were 25 departments with 97 pieces of equipment and 980 firemen.
New center planned
In 1964, it was apparent to both city and county fire officials that the old control center was inadequate. Under the leadership of Chief Henry A. Trost of Plattsburgh, Assistant Chief Richard C. King and myself as county fire coordinator, city and county fire officials united to improve the fire communications system. Meetings with the Clinton County Board of Supervisors and the Plattsburgh Common Council resulted in a joint plan. In July 1966, work began.
The new control center, dedicated last October 16, measures 15 x 25 feet. Walls are paneled in natural birch. The ceiling is of acoustic tile with flush lighting, and the floor is finished with light-colored tile. Consoles extend the length of one side of the center and are elled at the end closest to the apparatus floor. At this location, a large window facing the apparatus floor gives dispatchers a view of the area. The work was completed by county and city firemen and the fire coordinator.
A telephone switchboard is the hub of operations. To the left of this board are automatic voice recorders for all incoming calls, controls for apparatus doors and station and traffic lights, and a public address system for headquarters and other stations. A civil defense base station is part of the console.
Directly behind the dispatcher is a machine that records the time, date and telephone street box number.
Encoder for sirens
To the right of the switchboard, is an encoder for activating all county fire station sirens and/or alarm systems, either simultaneously or individually. A rotary file lists all fire departments, their officers, telephone numbers, alarm numbers, apparatus, rescue equipment, special equipment and mutual aid assignments. Also listed are special emergency agencies on call, such as earth movers, cranes, power shovels, large tankers, utility companies, medical services, police agencies, etc.
There are four county telephones and a direct line to the Plattsburgh Air Force Base. The latter insures instant response from the base fire department.
An electric status board keeps track of all vehicles through the use of lights—red for out of service on emergency, amber for out of service for repairs, and white for a department siren out of order, a situation requiring a call by telephone.
The fire coordinator, a full-time county fire officer, has an office in the center with duplicate telephones and a radio microphone on his desk. On first alarms, the coordinator stations himself at the center and assists the dispatcher. He responds on second alarms and assists the officer in charge, summons such aid as may be requested and, if necessary, establishes a field radio command post.
A deputy fire coordinator in charge of communications is summoned to the control center on second alarms to replace the coordinator. On additional alarms, a second deputy coordinator reports to headquarters to assist cover companies and a third deputy reports to the emergency to assist the coordinator. In the county, deputy coordinators are in charge of their respective areas and act as coordinators. The county emergency van, a field radio command vehicle, responds on all third alarms.
Planned mutual aid response relieves the requesting officer of designating which companies are to respond, and covering companies are automatically activated.
Under the direction of the county coordinator, Clinton County provides a rescue service on Lake Champlain with a 26-foot patrol-rescue boat equipped with a portable pump and short hose lines.
The county mutual aid system has extended its service into the Province of Quebec under a formal agreement and is helping 12 Canadian towns establish their own mutual aid system.