New Isolated Central Signal Station Has Provisions for Independent Operation

THE City of Washington, D. C., will very soon move its Fire Alarm Central Office to a new and modern isolated building in McMillan Park. This is a step up from the original office installed in 1863. The present old central office located in the District Building was installed about 1898. The system is efficient, but inadequate for the present needs of Washington. Its fire alarm box circuits are badly overloaded. However, steps are being taken to eliminate the overloaded condition and replace the old and obsolete type boxes still in use. These boxes in many cases exceed forty years of age.

The new building is completely isolated and built of fire resistive materials in accordance with the requirements of the National Board of Fire Underwriters.

Building Layout

The building is one story and basement. The first floor has four offices in front. The Operating Room occupies the center; on the east side of the Operating Room is located the washroom, kitchen or lunchroom, terminal room and battery room. On the west side is located the large battery room. The basement consists of washroom, engineer’s office, shop, storekeeper’s office, janitor’s room, boiler room, emergency generating room, storeroom; the garage is also located in the basement of the building.

The new Washington office will be equipped with 100 box circuits of new three-fold Gantewell equipment; there are twelve primary circuits, twelve secondary circuits. The emergency generators, Diesel operated, are of sufficient capacity to operate the office should all outside current fail.

Voice Communication System

The voice communication system will place wired radio in every fire station and other important points where alarms are received. Two-way radio will also be placed aboard the fire boat, chief engineer’s car, fire marshal’s car, deputy chief cars, battalion chief’s car and the emergency repair cars of the Fire Department.

The type of fire alarm cable used in the new system is manufactured by the United States Rubber Company and is in accordance with the International Municipal Signal Association Specification No. 16-1937 and the thin-rubber insulation type cable approved by the National Board of Fire Underwriters.

All telephone alarms of fire arc also recorded by a dictaphone telccord machine which records the voice of all persons transmitting fire alarms by telephone. Many false alarms have been solved by its use, as well as persons who under stress of excitement are unable to legibly transmit an alarm or legibly pronounce Northwest or Southwest, which are very similar and atten cause contusion which is one of the dangers encountered when telephones are used instead of the fire alarm system. In Washington, however, 90 percent of all alarms of actual fires are reported over the fire alarm system, and when unprotected areas are covered by an adequate number of fire boxes this average will increase.

Alarm Systems Important

Fire alarm systems are very important to every city and town. The smaller the town, the more this applies, as the smaller cities, as a general rule, are not fire alarm conscious. The records show that 70 percent of our annual fire loss occurs in cities of 20,000 population or less, and a survey of such cities or towns will disclose that they are without any adequate means of calling their respective fire departments.

Therefore, there is a great need for special study of the fire alarm systems, as in the past little attention has been given this all-important branch of municipal service.

The National Board of Fire Underwriters reports will show that in almost all cases the fire alarm systems are listed as deficient. Why? When its relationship to the work of the fire department—and it is no exaggeration to state that in all cases the fire alarm system or some haphazard type of system must first function before the fire department can go into action—the fire alarm system is the “nerve system” of any fire department, through which the occurrence of fires is made known to the fire fighting forces. Delayed alarms have contributed more than any other factor to our great fire loss. Records show that during the past twenty years losses from fires have exceeded eight billion dollars in property values, and more than 10,000 lives arc lost annually in fires. Therefore, any investment in adequate fire alarm protection can be but a small percentage of the above figure.

The City of Washington is, therefore, very properly providing its citizens with everything modern in fire protection and fire fighting equipment so that its low tire loss can be maintained at the same low, or lower, figure.

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