Provide Positive Protection With a Modern Coded Fire Alarm System

Provide Positive Protection With a Modern Coded Fire Alarm System

MORE THAN 2,000 communities, ranging from the country’s largest to its smallest, now have the positive protection of fire alarm systems based on the coded telegraph principle. But what of thousands of others? Some are completely unprotected. Others live under the false security of inadequate facilities which all too often are responsible for deadly delays in reporting fires that spell disaster.

The reason for lack of progressive community action in providing proper alarm facilities is all too clear—a disinterested, complacent public. To many fire officers and safety officials this attitude seems almost unbelievable in the face of recurring fire disasters throughout the land. But it does exist. Recent surveys conducted independently by newspapers, magazines, TV and radio news program bring out the terrible truth. Even after numerous tragedies, few cities and towns have learned the lesson!

Why don’t the facts sink in? They’re repeatedly covered by national and local news agencies! There’s at least one good reason. Too often these unpleasant features are hurriedly scanned and forgotten while the reader reads more entertaining articles. The written word might be powerful enough to hold their attention, but impact and initiative that cat be added by a progressive fire department cannot be overemphasized.

More fire department talks needed

At every opportunity the country’s disgraceful fire safety record must be hammered home by the fire department. At PTA and service club meetings, special meetings in schools and community club luncheons, the public must be told again and again. To the mother and father, the fire official has a purely humane, emotional argument. To fellow municipal authorities and businessmen he can present a factual argument dealing with dollars and cents as well as lives.

Schematic diagram of decentralized fire alarm system similar to that employed in Yonkers, N. Y.Chief J. L. Rivard (left) and Mayor Bergeron, Willimantic, Conn., inspect street box installation. Variation of station and public alarm timing of this system helps prevent traffic congestion problemsYonkers fire alarm headquarters is equipped with the latest type of central station equipment. In case of emergency affecting its operation, each individual substation can function as an independent unit

a Modern Coded Fire Alarm System

And he has plenty of ammunition: The 11 or 12,000 people who will die by fire this year—30 per cent of them children under 14; the $2,000 property loss that occurs each minute—800 homes a day, 45,000 mercantile buildings last year; the staggering total property loss by fire last year of $1,305,000,000. And he also has a golden opportunity to explain the growing need for connecting schools, hospitals, and public buildings into the municipal fire alarm system. How many of your citizens know, for example, that 65 per cent of today’s school fires are reported by passersby?

In emphasizing the need for progressive community action in regard to fire alarm systems, fire chiefs can draw generously on several outstanding examples for illustration purposes.

New Yonkers system

Probably the most complete and most foolproof protection in any city today is that provided by the new decentralized coded fire alarm system in Yonkers, N. Y. This city of 152,798 is typical of areas which, during the past ten years, have shown the greatest population increase —with subsequent increased fire protection problems.

Its outlying sections have expanded much more rapidly than the city proper. Mercantile, industrial and shopping center construction, together with residential areas and semi-isolated dwellings have created high-value districts beyond the extremities of the previous existing fire communications. The decentralized fire alarm system has proved the most efficient and economical solution to this situation.

When completed this year, the new system in Yonkers will have 790 boxes, 264 having been added to the 526 in operation before decentralization took place. There are 39 circuits available as against the former 16, with six interconnected engine houses in the decentralized control network. Fire engine houses act as substations, while No. 12 engine house serves as fire alarm headquarters.

Each substation has a control panel with circuits for the boxes within its jurisdiction and alarm circuits back to headquarters. A box pulled on any substation circuit is automatically transmitted back to headquarters where its location as well as date, hour and minute of the alarm register on a master recorder. The operator at the master console then sets up the alarm and transmits it. Alarms can be general or selective at the discretion of the chief operator. Date and time of these outgoing transmissions are also registered on a master recorder.

Double protection

Each substation in the system has a multicircuit recorder which registers all boxes pulled on its box circuits. There are also tap bells for the circuits. To provide centralized control, response from the engine house follows directions from fire alarm headquarters. However, each substation can function as an independent unit and receive all the alarms in its area on the multicircuit recorder. In addition, it eliminates the unnecessary alerting of firemen not needed for a particular box alarm.

No interference

Substations in this advanced system cannot interfere with each other in any way. Single boxes can be struck simultaneously on all of the six substation circuits and each will record on its own fire alarm circuit at headquarters. Should two or more boxes be simultaneously pulled from the substation circuits, a noninterference and succession feature automatically takes over, giving sequence preference to alarms in order of boxes pulled.

Additional safeguards

Complete supervision of each substation system at all times is provided by an automatic restorer for all circuits. The restorer also acts as a trouble shooter by monitoring open circuits and giving periodic warning taps at headquarters to alert maintenance personnel.

Each engine house also has a primary and secondary alarm circuit to fire alarm headquarters with alarm devices on both circuits. And, in addition to the built-in emergency batteries, power continuity to the system is assured fry an emergency gasoline generator.

Complete coverage

The new Yonkers system provides adequate curbline protection and will eventually include all public and parochial schools, connected into the system through master boxes located on school premises. Operated and maintained by the Yonkers Fire Department, with support of mobile radio units, it’s an up-to-the-minute fire alarm system that any communuity would be proud to possess.

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Chief Thomas P. Gorman, Quincy, Mass., looks over one of 10 new housing units for the aged. All will be equipped with automatic fire detectors and master box connection to municipal fire alarm systemChief Richard M. Salamone, Needham, Mass., demonstrating operation of fire alarm box to school children. Proper educational program directed to all civic groups will help sell the fire department’s story


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Willimantic progressive too

Willimantic, Conn., is fortunate, too, in having a mayor, fire committee and finance board sympathetic to the needs of its fire fighters. The progress being made there reflects a citizenry thoroughly aware of the need for adequate fire protection. Says Mayor Florimand L. Bergeron, “We add fire alarm boxes and related equipment as fast as city growth demands and the budget permits.”

Protected by a Type B System since 1887, this city of 18,000 now has 90 boxes, including those on the curb, in schools, hospitals, industrial plants, oldage homes, and supermarket. Any connections to the city alarm system must be of a type electrically and automatically transmitted directly to the homes of fire officers, as well as to the engine house. Volunteers are alerted by coded air bom signals.

Fast-timing of the boxes in relation to the air horn, permits station equipment to be well on its way before public curiosity can create confusion at the scene of the fire. Boxes are timed at 3/4-second intervals, air horn at 2 1/2-second intervals.

Quincy, Mass., shows the way

Another hopeful sign of progress occurred recently when Quincy, Mass., became the first municipality to pass an ordinance requiring that all new residential and institutional construction install automatic fire detection and alarm facilities. The city has a Type A system. All residential and high-value areas are adequately covered by strategically located curb boxes. In addition, master boxes tie all hospitals, public schools, and a great many of the larger industrial buildings into the municipal system.

In a matter of seconds after any box is pulled, Quincy’s entire fire defenses, as well as police and water works, know its location. Chief Thomas F. Gorman feels that his city of 83,835 now has the most advanced fire prevention and protective facilities.

Big job still ahead

There is still much to be done in the way of educating the everyday citizen, and the fire chief and his men can do much to keep the ball rolling. People must be made to know that, in addition to killing and maiming, fires destroy valuable industrial properties, resulting in a loss of community income from taxes. This loss must then be equalized by an increased tax rate in order to maintain the budget. Citizens must understand that a community’s fire losses are reflected in higher costs for food, wearing apparel and housing—right down the line!

A tangible investment

Perhaps your department has encountered the false economy problem. “A coded alarm system will be just too much for the city budget!” Here again, you have cold hard facts to work with. You can prove conclusively that any community can afford such a system, individually tailored to its specific needs, and that it can’t afford not to have the system. Completely owned, operated and maintained by the community which it protects, the total cost of a coded fire alarm system is far less than for other types of systems.

In addition, because it is recognized as an adequate protection system, it can help lower community insurance rates significantly. Installations of coded fire alarm systems have contributed to the reduction of insurance rates, and in many cases such savings alone have more than paid for the system well within 10 years.

Furthermore, over the year the increased operating efficiency of these systems has far outstripped die relative increase in cost of their components. For example, a typical fire alarm box which 33 years ago sold for $150, today (with many advanced design features) is priced at $175.

Dependability a strong story

Most persons just don’t realize that the “sentinel on the corner” can operate for days on its emergency power supply; that it operates through snow storms, floods and hurricanes; that it’s immune to service-crippling strikes; diat it can be made completely automatic and free from human error. These facts are a matter of record.

It remains for all of us concerned with fire protection to continue educating our citizens in matters of fire safety. We must keep them aroused and keenly conscious of all fire hazards such as unsafe practices, outmoded buildings and building codes and inadequate fire alarm systems. Only in this way can we hope to achieve the community-wide support that every fire department needs to do its job with maximum efficiency.


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