NEW FIRE ALARM SYSTEM IN PHILADELPHIA.
Chief Baxter of the fire department of Philadelphia, Pa., has so rearranged the fire alarm system that the different companies now answer to a fifth alarm, instead of to a fourth as before—additional assistance in the latter case being called out by special orders. Now there are five separate alarms from each box in the city. The new system thus checks the method by which irresponsible extra alarms were sent out According to the new arrangement, the first alarm is struck as before and the second is unmodified, owing to difficulties in the outlying districts, where the district engineers are a long time getting to a fire. The third, fourth, and fifth alarms are now sent as follows: When the chief engineer or one of the district engineers arrives at a fire, his driver goes to the fire alarm box and sends to the electrical bureau his own particular number, once repeated, such as 5-2, 5-2, the signal of the second district engineer. The bureau then answers 2-3, which is a recognition that they have received the message. If, in the opinion of the engineer on the scene, more engines are needed, he sends in an extra alarm or as many as he thinks necessary. If a third alarm is desired,he rings 3-3-3, then the number of the box, then the whole repeated. A fourth alarm is sounded 4-4-4 and the box repeated, the fifth alarm being 5-5-5, and the number of the box, also repeated—the repetition being for the sake of safety. By this method the responsibility of the extra alarm is fixed, and assurance is given to the electrical bureau that there is no unwarranted person calling out engines. Then, too, time is saved, because an alarm is inclusive. By the old system the fourth alarm was, as the phrase signifies, the fourth alarm struck from that box. This alone at a big fire would save,perhaps,as much as twenty minutes in the time it would take the engines to arrive where they were needed. Another improvement has been made in the method of sending the alarms to the engine houses by the electrical bureau. Previously, all alarms have been preceded by ten strokes of the bell on the “joker,” a small alarm in engine and police station houses. Thus there was no warning signal for an extra alarm. Now, in sending out a third, fourth,or fifth alarm,the “joker “will first give two series of ten strokes each, thus notifying the firemen that it is an extra alarm that will be sounded. These are the most important changes. There are also many small changes, made necessary by experience, in the grouping of the engines that respond to a particular box. A change was also necessary in the signal given by district engineers on their return after service, their new signal being 7-7-7, followed by their number. Previously their signal was 5-5 5. but that is now used for the fifth alarm, and, therefore, could net be used for the service.