Speeding Up the Response to Alarms

Speeding Up the Response to Alarms

Education of Public as to the Location of Boxes Is Important— There Should Be Plenty of Boxes—Speed of the Box a Big Factor

IN this paper three points are emphasized. One is the necessity for the intelligent placing of fire alarm boxes. The second is the installation of a sufficient number of these important fire-fighting adjuncts to enable persons to reach one without going too far away from the point of origin of the fire and the third the speed with which the box itself acts. All of these matters, it is pointed out, arc important factors in the fighting of fire.

While splendid progress has been made during the past twenty years in cutting down the time which elapses between the discovery of a fire and the arrival of the apparatus, yet the fact remains that the fire loss of the country has not been materially reduced. There has been, however, no survey made of the entire subject. Ten or twenty seconds saved in anyone operation is well worth striving for but when it can be shown that these ten or twenty seconds or even more may be saved in five or ten places it becomes apparent that the entire field of speeding up the response of apparatus might well be surveyed. We have building laws, motor apparatus and all kinds of extinguishing equipment, but the delay in bringing into operation these means in one single instance may mean the loss of millions.

Saving of Time by Proper Training

Progressive fire chiefs have always recognized the importance of saving time. The question of volunteer forces and call men was one of the.first factors to receive attention. Most of the large eastern cities have entirely eliminated these men. The Middle West and the Northwest are still the home of the volunteer but even in these sections full paid departments are rapidly being adopted because of the tremendous saving in time.

A very substantial saving in time has been effected by proper training and drilling of the firemen. New York. Boston, Chicago and Philadelphia have established fire colleges and have found that it increased very substantially the effectiveness of the men. Such drills make certain that all the men know the most effective method of handling ladders, connecting hose and similar tasks. Companies which had previously taken four to five minutes were able to reduce the time to one minute or a minute and a quarter.

The relocation of apparatus houses has also served to save time. Changes in the character of different parts of the city and increased traffic congestion has made it imperative in many cities to change the location of the stations. A survey of your city along

* From paper prepared by the Gamewell Company and read before the annual convention of the International Association of Fire Engineers by Chief John I. Mulcahey, Yonkers, N. Y., secretary of the association. these lines may well develop that considerable time can be saved.

Time Saved by Motorization

The extensive motorization of equipment made possible a speeding up of the department which chiefs were quick to recognize. 1 am informed that one central west city which formerly had some forty-five horse-drawn companies were able to eliminate ten or twelve when the equipment was motorized even though a somewhat larger territory was covered. It was estimated that horse-drawn apparatus could make a speed of about twenty miles an hour for the first half mile, ten miles an hour for the second half mile and five miles an hour after the first mile. Motor apparatus on the contrary could quickly reach a speed of twenty-five or thirty miles an hour and maintain it for any distance except of course, when traffic conditions prevented.

The Underwriters recognized the value of motors by making substantial deficiency charges against cities with horse-drawn equipment. There have been virtually no horse-drawn engines sold for the past twelve years and no tractor-drawn steamers for eight years or more. There was, of course, not only the saving of time in getting to the fire but also the very considerable saving in getting up pressure. The steps which have been taken to eliminate or reduce the number of volunteers or call men; to train the men through fire colleges and organized drills; to relocate apparatus houses; to bring about motorization shows that the chiefs are alive to the necessity of saving time and that considerable expenditures can be obtained for this purpose.

A Neglected Field of Speed

There is one neglected field for speeding up the response of the apparatus to which I should like to invite careful consideration. This is the time which elapses between the discovery of the fire and the receipt of a proper alarm by the apparatus houses. My experience has been, and I know that it has been the experience of many other chiefs, that a tremendous and unnecessary waste of time occurs between the discovery of a fire by some person and the receipt of the alarm in all of the houses. This is caused by three major conditions:

1st. Delay in sounding the alarm.

2nd. Inadequate facilities for sending the alarm.

3rd. Slow acting alarm apparatus.

Every chief has had unfortunate experiences with amateur fire-fighters who felt that thee could extinguish the blaze better than the city department and for that reason neglected to send the alarm until a serious loss was inevitable. Most of the delay is caused, however, by people who do not really appreciate the tremendous importance of a prompt alarm. We have done much to educate the public along these lines but we must do more. It is not enough to do this work spasmodically. It must be done regularly month after month and year after year.

“Most delay is caused by people who do not really appreciate the tremendous importance of a prompt alarm. We have done much to educate the public along these lines, but we must do more. It is not enough to do this work spasmodically. It must be done regularly month after month and year after year.”

Cards Showing Location of Box Distributed

We have all had some experience along this line but I know that it will be helpful if we review what has been done. Detroit has, perhaps, utilized the Boy Scouts to better advantage in this work than most cities. Through the co-operation of the Chamber of Commerce 10(),(XX) cards showing the location of the nearest box were distributed by the Scouts. This covered the city more completely than has ever been done before by any large city. A number of other cities, notably in the South and Southwest have had similar cards distributed and tacked up in the houses. All of these cities report that this work has resulted in a decrease in telephone alarms and a more prompt sending of box alarms. The distribution of the cards has in some of the smaller cities been done by firemen in uniform.

Demonstration Before School Children

Demonstrations before school children is one of the most popular and most effective methods of reducing the delay. It is desirable that a fire alarm box and gong be used in these exhibitions and that some of the children be permitted to operate the box. If every school child is impressed each year with the importance of a prompt alarm you may be certain that by the time they leave school that it will be so well fixed in their memory that it will be retained fur many, many years.

Addresses before chambers of commerce, rotary clubs, civic organizations and women’s clubs are an effective means for reaching the adults. The newspapers can and should be used more than they are. The editors will give you space from time to time to emphasize the value of prompt alarms and the reporters are only too willing to play up a delayed alarm as the cause of a fire if you will call it to their attention when it occurs.

Increase of Boxes Reduces Telephone Alarm

Education will do much to insure a prompt alarm but box facilities must be available if most of your educational work is not to be lost. It is significant that the cities which have a high percentage of box development per capita also have a high percentage of box alarms as compared to telephone alarms. It would seem that the percentage of box alarms goes up in about direct proportion to the increase in boxes. The percentage of box alarms received by various cities is shown in the table in the next column.

Factors Affect Percentage of Box Alarms

When you consider that a large number of the telephone alarms are for grass or other trivial fires it will be seen that the record in these cities is good. A larger majority of the cities of the country however. are receiving less than 50 per cent, of their a I arras over the box circuits. This is especially true ji the medium and smaller size cities where the aver-

age is from 30 to 35 per cent. There are a considerable number of cities where less than 10 per cent, of the alarms are box alarms.

Several factors naturally affect the percentage of box alarms such as the area, the type of the city (whether residential or mercantile), the number of grass fires and the amount of work done to educate the public to use the boxes. The most im]xrtant factor, however, seems to he the number of boxes in service. This is best shown by a comparison of Detroit and Los Angeles. These cities are somewhat similar in population; at least not far enough apart to affect comparisions. Detroit has about one box for every twenty-five acres. Los Angeles has one box for about every five hundred acres. Eighty per cent, of the alarms in Detroit are box alarms; thirteen per cent, of the alarms in Los Angeles are box alarms. The city authorities of Los Angeles have recognized this and one thousand additional boxes are to be installed.

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Speeding Up Response to Alarms

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If a box is readily available the person who discovers the fire will use it. If none is available they will not go a considerable distance. Today, by the absence of boxes, we are virtually forcing the person who discovers a fire either to fight the fire singlehanded or to use the telephone. The nearest box is three or four blocks away and sometimes even further. Naturally most people hesitate to leave the fire to go that far to pull a box. If a box is three blocks away it will take at least a minute and a half for the average person to reach it if he or she knows where it is. In many cases unfortunately four or five minutes are wasted in looking for a box.

“A Box a Block” Logical Standard

The number of boxes that various cities have installed differs so widely that it would seem that there has been no standard in the past. It has always seemed to me that the standard of “A Box A Block” which has been set was the most logical standard to which we could work. It may be impractical, of course, for us to reach this standard quickly but we should at least bear it in mind and make our plans in that direction. ,

There was a time when even some of the chiefs thought that the telephone might provide satisfactory alarms because of their greater number. There are now few, if any chiefs, who still believe that the telephone is satisfactory and most of the city officials and citizens have come to see that an alarm from a box is much to be preferred. The extensive introduction of automatic telephones throughout the country is causing more and more of the officials and citizens to realize the need of more boxes and I feel that this is an especially favorable time to obtain a sufficient number of additional boxes to cut down substantially the time of receiving a signal. A number of cities have adopted the plan of adding each year a definite number of boxes to their system. If twenty-five, fifty or one hundred boxes are added regularly each year it will be but a short time before any city will have eliminated the delay which comes from this source.

Speed of Box Vital Factor

The speed at which the boxes work is another vital factor. The boxes of Toledo, Louisville, and San Francisco operate, I understand, on the basis of onequarter of a second between each blow. Detroit, Cleveland and other cities operate on one-third second time and a large number of cities operate on onehalf second time. The amount of time which is saved by a system operating on fast time as compared with one operating on two or three seconds between blows is considerable. Another even more important advantage. however, is the effect upon the men. Experiments have shown that quickening the blows of the signals quickens the action of the men. The army officer recognizes this as shown by the short snappy commands. Most of you fire chiefs recognize it either consciously or unconsciously as I never have known an efficient chief to drawl out his commands.

I have been told by the manufacturers that boxes have been received by them to be retimed which took one and one-half minutes to receive one round. Most boxes are not timed as slowly as that, fortunately, but many systems could be retimed and considerable time saved.

The question of the speed of boxes depends upon whether or not the alarm is to be counted and upon the apparatus which is connected with it. If a bell is to be counted, four blows a second is perhaps as fast as would prove effective. The telegraphers have demonstrated, however, that considerably faster signals can be counted after some training. The speed of most systems is held down, however, by the large gongs which are connected to it. A certain amount of mechanical inertia must be overcome and this take time. Large bell strikers need about two seconds between each blow. A number of cities which were compelled to maintain bell strikers because of a certain number of call men have speeded their systems by the use of a two-speed transformer. This enables the boxes on the street and the registers in the engine houses to be operated at fast time while the bell strikers could be operated at normal speed. Repeaters can now be adjusted to operate on one-half second time. Large engine house gongs may be operated at three blows a second while turtle gongs can receive four or five blows a second. New registers have been developed which can receive ten blows a second if a heavy bell signal is not needed.

We have all of us always known that the first few minutes are the precious minutes. It will pay us, however, to review the situation and see if there are not some places in our various cities where some additional slack cannot be gathered up. Volunteer forces, proper drilling, locating of apparatus houses and motorization all offer opportunities for saving time.

Much work has. however, been done along these lines. Much work still remains to be done in saving time between the discovery of the fire and the receipt of the alarm at headquarters.

The public must be educated; additional boxes must be supplied and present equipment must be speeded up.

Water Works Bond Issue at Rivesville, W. Va.—Rivesville, W. Va., will issue $50,000 in bonds for the construction of water and sewer system improvements to include the installation of electric pumping equipment at the pumping station.

Anacortes Votes to Triple Supply—Citizens of Anacortes, Wash., have voted to issue $150,000 in bonds for the extension of the water system to take in Lake Campbell and install a filtration plant. The new system as proposed will permit the pumping and filtration of three times the present consumption of the city.

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