NEW HAVEN FIRE DEPARTMENT MAKES GOOD USE OF TELETYPE
Chief Heinz Reports Wide and Varied Use of This Communications Instrument
OVER twenty years ago, the police service adopted the teletype as the method of communication which would enable them by one operation instantly to spread an alarm throughout some given area and which, if necessary, could be extended to all parts of the state within a very short space of time. In June, 1930, the New York State Association of Chiefs of Police in convention at Rochester adopted a resolution requesting the Legislature of the state to create a state-wide system of teletypewriter communication similar to the systems then in operation throughout the states of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Connecticut.
By 1932, New York had its state-wide police teletypewriter system and it wasn’t long before practically every state was using this instrument. They still do so for certain types of communications, although now the faster radio is relied upon as the No. 1 means of emergency communications.
The successful use of the teletype by the police service and in business and industry, raised the question among forward-thinking firemen if here was not a proper communications facility for their field. This was before the advent of radio and voice amplification systems.
There were a number of reasons why the teletype did not receive very serious consideration at that time. It was said to be slower than other existing signal systems for transmitting fire alarms. Its cost was high, both as regards installation and maintenance. But chiefly it failed of acceptance because it was not fully understood, both in its application to the fire service as an instrument of handling fire alarms, and as a time and trouble-saver in the daily routine business of fire department administration.
In those days, also, fire department “paper work” had not assumed the magnitude and complexities that it has be-
come today. The teletype, therefore, if it was considered at all, was evaluated entirely from the viewpoint of an instrument for transmitting alarms of fire from fire alarm headquarters to fire stations.
Pioneers of the Teletype
Fully ten years ago, at least two sizable municipal fire departments installed teletype. One of these was the Cincinnati Fire Department, Chief Barney J. Houston. The other was the New Haven Fire Department, whose Chief is Paul P. Heinz.
This message is concerned with the experiences of the latter organization, as related to the editors by Chief Heinz.
According to Chief Heinz, the teletype has proven of great value to the New Haven Department’s communications system. It has resulted in the practical elimination of the old signal bell method of dispatching fire messages. However, the Chief points out that the department still maintains its wire circuits intact, as an additional means of communication in the event of failure of the present equipment.
In New Haven, the teletype is used to its fullest extent, both in connection with fire alarm transmission, and for handling the routine business of the department.
Regardless of whether or not all companies are in or out of quarters, all messages are recorded via the teletype, in the individual fire stations, where they can be checked at any time the units arc in quarters, or upon their return to quarters, should they be out of the station when the message is transmitted. Chief Heinz emphasizes the importance of the teletype in the confirmation of departmental messages. There is no possibility of misunderstanding words or syllables when the teletypewriter is used. The
message is printed, and can be filed, without any re-copying, as a permanent record.
The New Haven Fire Department follows a practice that is not universal, but which so far as that organization is concerned, appears to function satisfactorily. In that city, the house watch is eliminated after 12:00 midnight. It is doubtful if this practice would be followed were it not for the use of the teletype.
All routine business messages transmitted after 12:00 midnight, such as hydrants out of order, streets blocked and so on, are immediately promulgated via the teletype, and become a permanent record, available at any time to either the officer in charge, or the house watchman. It is the practice for the officer to check the teletype recordings first thing in the morning.
Should an alarm of fire be received at the station after 12:00 midnight, the officer in charge generally refers to his teletype first on “hitting the floor,” to ascertain if any pertinent information that might relate to the operations of his company had been recorded. For example, a still alarm received previous to the bell alarm would be so indicated on the teletype record.
An attribute of teletype communications is the fact that all information concerning an alarm, such as the owner, occupant, the type of building, address, etc., is sent out just as soon as the last company returns to quarters. This makes certain that all companies which responded to the fire have all the necessary information for their report. Previously, every individual company would have to call headquarters by telephone for all the essential facts on the incident, with resulting extra work for all hands, particularly if the central office should be involved in the details of transmitting other fire calls at the time company record-keepers wanted to secure the necessary data to bring their books up to date. In the case of multiple alarms, reports Chief Heinz, as many as twelve companies would call the fire alarm office for this essential information. It requires no slide-rule to figure out the time and trouble thus saved by teletypewriting such messages.
The New Haven department finds that the use of the teletype system keeps emergency telephone lines open for emergency calls. Previously, when a message was sent out to all companies, a “3-3” signal would be sounded on the bell, which would mean that all companies pick up their telephone receivers and “listen in.” The operator would then plug in a master jack connecting all telephones into one circuit and then repeat the message orally, twice, and call for an O.K. from all companies.
Many times the message would not be heard correctly and the operator would have to repeat it. During all this time, every official department phone would be “busy”—in short, out of service. Under the present teletype system, this handicap is eliminated.
Another asset which the teletype affords, according to Chief Heinz, is that in the event of a failure of the telegraph or telephone system, the teletype can be used to transmit alarms of fire.
In New Haven the teletype has not done away with the fire department’s fire alarm system; fife alarms are still sent out over the Gamewell transmitter. The teletype is used purely as a supplemental follow-up.
Two Types of Teletype
New Haven has both what is known as the tape, and the page model teletypes, the former being predominately used. In this model, the message is received on a moving tape, whereas on the page type, the message is received on a sheet or page. Both mechanisms are essentially the same, it is understood.
Teletype machines can be leased or purchased outright. It is reported that the New Haven Fire Department owns its own system. Costs are based on a number of factors, such as the number and length of circuits, number of units, maintenance service and so on. The line charge is understood to run around $2 per mile, with machine charges running from $15 to $25 per month. On the lease basis, no capital investment is required and all maintenance service is handled by the telephone company.
In operation, messages are typed on a headquarter’s unit and delivered automatically at a speed of 60 words a minute, to as many receiving units as may be desired. The units are powered by a small motor, cither A.C. synchronous or D.C. governed, with an input of about 65 watts.
Although no information regarding maintenance of the device was received from Chief Heinz, it is understood that this is an important factor in insuring continued efficient operation. As in the case of radio, the teletype requires servicing by a skilled, trained technician.
In use, the teletype has almost unlimited application in furthering the administration and operation of a municipal fire department. The more complex and varied the department’s administration system the greater the economy in the use of the teletype.
Among the various uses are;
Transmission of orders of the day. including personnel changes, appointments, promotions, reliefs, deaths, vacations, leaves of absence, flying the colors, etc.
Special orde,rs covering details and assignments, re-calls, accidents, fill-ins, transfers, etc.
Fire reports, operations of companies and battalion and other districts. Operational details involving personnel.
Reports of events and developments affecting the department, and individual companies: hydrants, standpipes and sprinkler systems out-of-order; blocked streets; repairs to buildings, etc.
Fire prevention activities: inspections, reports of violations and convictions (the teletype can, under ideal conditions, be used as the department’s “newspaper.”)
Cooperation with other municipal departments—police, water and sanitation, etc.: Instructions and information on parades, special events and celebrations and functions involving the department.