THE NEW YORK CITY FIRE ALARM SYSTEM

THE NEW YORK CITY FIRE ALARM SYSTEM

Putnam A. Bates, electrical engineer, chief of the Bureau of Fire Alarm Telegraph of the New York City Fire Department, has compiled and submitted to Commissioner Robert Adamson an interesting summary of the work of the Bureau for the year 1916.

Engineering Division.

The report of the Engineering Division shows that plans and specifications were completed and contracts awarded for practically all of the feeder and distribution cables, feeder terminal boxes and 300 fire-alarm boxes for the new system on the Island of Manhattan. The contracts awarded aggregated $612,359.74. Since the first of January, 1917, a contract has been awarded to the Gamewell Fire Alarm Telegraph Company for 1,250 boxes of a noninterfering succession type. In addition to the above work in 1916, a great deal of work was made ready for the placing of contracts, plans and specifications being completed for many contracts and partly completed for others. The inspections and tests made during the year included the following factory tests: 16,191,062 feet of bare wire tested, 13,873,584 feet of insulated wire tested, 338,125 feet of cable tested. Field cable tests were: 1,990,755 feet of conductor tested and 141,663 feet of cable tested. The construction work performed during the year included 3,152 feet of trench opened, 4,633 feet of pipe laid, 75 posts erected, and 143,896 feet of cable installed. Subways built during the year were: P’or feeder cables, 5.8 miles; for distribution cables, 11.99 miles; total, 17.79 miles.

Operating Division.

Chief Bates’ summary states that reorganization of the staff of telegraph dispatchers, whereby the most experienced were charged with responsibility of greater supervision, resulted in increased efficiency of the alarm service, no error being made in either receiving or transmitting any alarm of fire. The summary further says, in part: The total number of alarms and special calls received and transmitted during the year was 20,101, as more fully indicated in the following tabulation: Alarms: First alarms, 9,776; second alarms, 185; third alarms. 47; fourth alarms, 9; Manhattan Fire Alarm Company, 79; Consolidated l ire Alarm Company, 83; National District Tel. Company, 829; Automatic Fire Alarm Company, 135; Special Five Alarm Company, 9; still alarms, 4,743; total, 15,395. Special calls—Engine company, 2,443; hook and ladder company, 1,419; water tower, 2; fuel wagon, 4; hose wagon, 115; insurance patrol, 79; search light engine, 1; borough signal, 373; rescue crew, 24;-men without apparatus, 4; ambulance, 242; total, 4,706.

Maintenance Division.

As result of persistent upkeep and strengthening of weak spots in existing plant, the first-alarm system in all boroughs afforded service on all occasions throughout the year without serious interruption. This result was obtained without the necessity of increasing the regular field working forces at any time, in fact the efficiency of the Maintenance Division has increased to such a degree as to permit the utilization of approximately in per cent, of the field forces in this division upon the work of installing the modern equipment for Manhattan Island. The use in this manner of men well acquainted with the needs of the service is desirable in conducting segregated portions of the installation not suitable to place under contract. In all of the boroughs circuit and instrument troubles, when they occurred, were promptly located, removed and necessary repairs made. Fire-alarm boxes in all boroughs were pulled at regular intervals to insure their perfect operation, and in addition to the new construction work carried on by the Engineering Division, the following general improvements were made: Overhead circuits revamped in outlying sections, 86 miles: overhead circuits completely removed, 151 miles: defective poles replaced. 65; poles abandoned and taken down, 470; underground circuits extended, 202 miles; defective underground circuits removed, 24 miles; posts destroyed by vehicles and replaced with new cast-iron posts, 41; fire-alarm street boxes removed from defective wooden poles and replaced in new cast-iron posts, 62; existing fire-alarm street posts removed and relocated on account of changes in street conditions, 58; underground subsidiary ducts constructed by Fire Department labor, 1,525 feet. The problem of maintaining the existing firealarm system can be appreciated best when it is known that in the past year, for example, durinc which time the conditions were better than average, the total number of difficulties experienced with the plant equipment was more than 7,500. Some, of course, were’more serious than others, but in each instance it was necessary to assign instrumentmen, battcrymen, wiremen, cable splicers, linemen or general “trouble” hunters to rectify, and in the majority of cases the defect was sufficient to have interfered with the service had the difficulty not been promptly located and repaired. This total number is equivalent to an average of twenty defects per day occurring through the year, which it is needless to say is a positive indication of New Type Twin-Post the urgent necessity Fire-Alarm Street tor an entirely new Box Station. fire-alarm system throughout the five boroughs. During the year substantial progress was made to this end through the adoption of standards of equipment for the modern system for Manhattan Island. These standards should be adopted for uniform installation throughout the City. The specifications for the new cable insure a high quality well adapted to fire-alarm service and the new firealarm box of non-interference succession type, shown in the accompanying illustrations, is workmanlike and will prove a decided step forward in standardizing fire-alarm practice. One of the especially marked changes from past custom made during the year was the adoption by the Fire Department of what has been termed a “twin” type of street post, to contain the fire-alarm box, suitable for erection adjacent to the existing lighting post. The advantages of this combination lie in the direction of simplicity of subsurface construction and a reduction in the number of obstructions to traffic on the sidewalks. The application of the new post to several forms of lighting posts is shown in drawing here reproduced. In addition to the problems incidental to the upkeep and operation of the existing plant and the planning and installing of the new system in the Borough of Manhattan and portions of the other boroughs, at the request of the Comptroller and with the approval of the Mayor and yourself, I conducted an exhaustive investigation of the relations of the telephone service to all City Departments. This included the question of whether the Fire, Police and other departments are obtaining subway ducts to meet their entire needs, as provided for by law and by the contracts with the subway companies. The investigation was beneficial to the Fire Department inasmuch as it tended to clear up the general questions of subway and subsidiary construction. The results are contained in the formal report made to the Comptroller under date of November 18th, 1916. Of all the problems under consideration for the advancement of the modernization of the fire-alarm service in all boroughs, I know of none that is so essential to press forward as the construction of the necessary subway ducts for the feeder and distribution cables of the new system on the Island of Manhattan. This work was undertaken aggressively by the Empire City Subway Company and for a considerable period an adequate working force of something over 700 men was applied to the task. This number, however, was not maintained, with the result that of the 44 miles of subway which they were to construct for our needs, approximately 18 miles were built during the year. There is yet time for this element of the complect problem to be disposed of without materially retarding the entire installation, but only through an immediate prosecution of the remainder of their undertaking with a decided increase in their daily force.

New Type Twin-Post Fire-Alarm Street Box Station.Fire-Alarm Box of the Non-Interference, Succession Type. Right Side View, Casings Removed.Front View Assembled.Left Side View, Casings Removed.

THE NEW YORK CITY FIRE ALARM SYSTEM

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THE NEW YORK CITY FIRE ALARM SYSTEM

New York City is about to realize its long deferred dream of a new fire alarm system. Robert Adamson, Fire Commissioner, who since his appointment January 1, 1914, has been laboring to bring this great constructive achievement to successful culmination, will on August 31 open the last of the bids for the underground installation of this system in Manhattan. Already he has awarded six contracts for the construction of as many sections of this system and active work on these is in progress. One tcontract has already been completed. With the award of the contract on August 31, three more contracts for posts, boxes and central office equipment will remain to be awarded. These will quickly follow, and during the coming year the new svstem, costing altogether about $3,000,000, will be leady for operation and New York’s long suspense over the present antiquated and dilapidated system will be ended. Thus is terminated an effort that has lasted more than twelve years for a new fire alarm system. During all that time merchants, business men, insurance interests and others have continually urged the construction of the new system and declared that so long as New York continued to put up with the present system it would be inviting catastrophe. Commissioner Adamson, from his experience in the Mayor’s office, was familiar with this situation and he made it one of his first tasks to secure an appropriation for a new system. As a result of his efforts the New S ork Fire Insurance Exchange agreed by resolution to grant a reduction in insurance rates as soon as the system is put in operation which will far more than equal the interest and sinking fund charges on the cost of the improvement. Thus it may be said that the property owners of the city are getting the new system for nothing, with a bonus in the shape of decreased insurance charges besides. The system is to be new in every respect, and wholly independent of fte present system. New cables, new boxes, and a new central office are to be provided. New subway ducts are being constructed for the new system. The old system will continue to be operated from the old headquarters up to the very day the new one is ready. Then the operators will march over from old Fire Headquarters in East 67th street to the new central office building in the heart of Central Park, begin to receave alarms over the new system, and the old system will be discarded and thrown into the junk heap.

Manhattan New Central Fire Alarm Telegraph Office Building Recently Erected on Trans verse Road No. 2, Central Park, New York.

The New System.

The new system will embrace 1760 separate fire alarm boxes on -Manhattan, instead of 800 the present number. Thus the facilities for transmitting alarms will be more than doubled and the quicker transmission of alarms is expected to result in a marked decrease in the fire loss. Where citizens now have to go, in some cases, several blocks to send in an alarm they will find a fire alarm box within a block or so. Commissioner Adamson has been running the engineering staff of the Fire Alarm Telegraph Bureau under high pressure in order to get the complicated and detailed plans for the system completed and the contracts let so that the underground installation could be carried on this summer. The field work can only be done in summer months and a record job has been made in getting the plans and specifications ready. In order to accomplish this Commissioner Adamson had to engage an extra emergency force of twenty engineering draughtsmen, but as a result the great mass of detail drawings has been completed and all but one of the contracts for the underground installation awarded. The other contracts, those for the central office equipment, boxes, posts, etc., can be executed during the winter months. Thev will be let before the summer is over so that they may be completed early next year. In order to secure the greatest possible expedition in the work, Commissioner Adamson divided it into sections. First contracts were let for the huge trunk feeder cables from which radiate all the smaller cables running to fire alarm boxes, public buildings, schools, etc. The installation of these feeder cables was divided into three contracts all of which have been awarded to the Okonite Companyamounting to $271,369.16. Next followed two contracts for the installation of the distribution cables south of 14th and between 14th street and 82nd street. These two contracts were awarded to the Safety Insulated Wire & Cable Company for $178,354. The contract to be awarded on August 31, is that for the installation of distribution cables north of 82nd street. Subways for the cables are being constructed for the city without cost by the Empire City Subway Company, as required by that company’s contract with the city. The company estimates that the subways it is thus required to furnish free to the city in part payment for its right to occupy the streets will cost $1,600,000 alone.

Emergency Telephone Alarm Station in Plaza Exchange of New York Telphone Company, as Temporary Means of Receiving and Transmitting Alarms in Event of Serious Disability of Manhattan Fire Alarm System.

As planned, only ten street boxes will be attached to any single circuit. Each fire house will be connected with the central office by circuits wholly independent of thealarm box circuits, a maximum of four companies being connected on any one of these circuits. The fire alarms will be sent to the new central headquarters from the street boxes, and will be thence transmitted to the fire house over the central office circuit. Provision is included, by means of independent circuits, for notifying independently the chief of department, his under chiefs, all fire boat stations, and the insurance, patrol so that they shall receive all alarms of fire at all hours. In this latter system of circuits will be included a connection with the high pressure pumping stations, the Edison Company’s waterside power station, which furnishes the current for the pressure pumping, and police headquarters. Wires are also provided in the feeder cables for direct connections with fire headquarters in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens. Blackwells, Randalls and Wards Islands are connected with the system by means of cables which reach the islands over the bridges, thus making it possible to abandon the underriver cables by which these islands are now connected with Manhattan. Public schools, hospitals and other similar buildings are also to be connected with the street box system, each such building having assigned to it one box. The box locations in each street of the city have been chosen as a result of the combined judgment of the chief of the department, his deputy chiefs and battalion chiefs, and in consultation with the fire risk expert of the New York Board of Fire Underwriters. In preparing the plans and specifications, it has been necessary to treat the undertaking in a manner not greatly different from that which would have been followed had no constructive work been attempted, and were all subway construction under the direction of the fire department. The reasons for this being the important practical conditions which require that the new system shall be installed while the old system is constantly maintained in service, and that the new equipment shall be such as to perform all the functions of the old plant. The fact that some portions of the construction were attempted prior to the preparation of the complete plan tended to increase the difficulties of the problem and one of the present responsibilities is that of conserving this investment. The new centra! office building, for example, during the past year has been carried to completion under its original contract and taken over by the city, to which only the necessary alterations will be made to accommodate and safeguard interior apparatus required for the control of the new system. It is intended that all the new cables throughout the island of Manhattan shall occupy ducts in underground conduits.

Defective Aerial Circuits in Brooklyn Removed from Elevated Railroad Structure.

To insure the greatest security, the fire department has constructed concentrating subway leading from the central office east and west along the Transverse Road and thence along East and West 79th and 81st streets, respectively, to the street intersections where the feeder cables change direction in their course northward or southward. To these subways no commercial company shall have access after the installation of the Calebs. In extension of the “concentrating subways,” existing underground conduits of the Empire City Subway Company, as shown by survey, were not in all places sufficient to meet the needs of the new cable plant. The greater part of the cables, however, can be accommodated in existing subways belonging to that company but the plans call for the construction of approximately 57 miles of new subway to be furnished to the city, without cost, by the Empire City Subway Company under its agreement with the city. The terms of this agreement require the Empire City Subway Company to furnish the city all of the subway space it needs for the accommodation of its fire department cables. During the year the majority of the necessary surveys were made governing the contract plans for the system outside of the central office and during the progress of this work field construction has advanced in localities where required to meet urgent demands. For instance, in West 42nd street at Uth and 12th avenues, in West 42nd street stations were established, with new cable connecting same. This was to replace overhead construction which constantly gave trouble and rarely failed to interrupt service during high wind storms. Similar treatment was applied to relieve conditions at 14th street and 7th avenue. In the lower part of the city new street posts were erected along the route of the Rapid Transit Subway improvements, taking advantage of the open condition of the streets, on Broadway front Park Place to Worth street, and on Church street from Exchange Alley to Barclay street. On Lexington avenue this course was also followed by establishing new posts from 61st to Slith streets. In order to meet a possible emergency in the form of a series breakdown in the operation of the present old fire alarm system on the Island of Manhattan during the period of construction non of the new, the Fire Alarm Telegraph Bureau, by arrangement with the New York Telephone Company, installed an emergency telephone central office to be used in case of such a necessity.

The Brooklyn System.

Awaiting decision by the Board of Estimate and Apportionment is Fire Commisioner Adamson’s request for the appropriation needed for Brooklyn. The Fire Alarm Telegraph Bureau has made such improvements as were practicable, with the resources at hand. Under the appropriation requested it is proposed to provide permanent installation for one-third of this borough, as the vast extent of the borough in itself makes the planning of a modern fire alarm installation a very extensive problem unless undertaken in sub-divisions, each to be solved according to local conditions. All along the water front, from Newtown Creek to and including Coney Island, many lives and valuable property are at times subject to riskthrough inadequate fire alarm protection, and in this important section a modern system will be installed as rapidly as appropriations can be obtained.

Scene of Fire in Bronx Showing Pole Line Carrying Wires in Immediate Danger.

Proposed Bronx Alarm Protection.

The new work proposed for the Bronx will be of such character as to constitute a ten year improvement, the majority of the feeders will consist of cables entirely underground and a large proportion of distribution) cables will also be placed underground owing to the availability of conduits which have been or may be provided by the Empire City Subway Company under its agreement with the city. The southern portion of this borough is in urgent need of better fire alarm protection. In the outlying sections, however, it would seem, it is stated, that the development has not reached a point necessitating an extensive permanent equipment. To establish all installation anticipating the growth for the next ten years is the plan proposed. In the F’ire Commissioner’s request to the Board of FIstimatc and Apportionment for corporate stock appropriation for improvement of the fire alarm system, he urged the installation of a new fire alarm system in the southern half of the Bronx. The immediate need of this is manifest, on account of the inadvisability of attempting to continue longer the use of the present unreliable overhead equipment as a system of fire alarm protection in the most densely populated part of the borough.

The System When Completed.

The entire installation when completed will result in a material reduction in the cost of maintenance and insure proper protection to life and property through the improved reliability of the fire alarm service in the built-up sections, justifying the substantial reduction in insurance rates guaranteed by the insurance companies, leaving the undeveloped areas to be treated at a later period. The contention of the officers of the uniformed force, that the few seconds or minutes elapsing immediately after the starting of a fire constitute. perhaps, the most important single element in the entire problem with which the department is engaged, suggest how imperative it is to have a fire alarm telegraph equipment, by which this time interval is reduced to the minimum, as reliable as it can be made. Much credit is due in furthering this work to Putnam A. Bates, electrical engineer and chief of the Fire Alarm Telegraph Bureau, Mr. Bates has worked incessantly, co-operating iwth the Fire Commissioner and meetingdaily in his work difficulties which to an or dinary engineer would have been well-nigh insuperable. He is to be congratulated on having accomplished a task which has taxed the best engineering ability of this city for many years. Mr. Bates was recently elected president of the New York Electrical Society. He is a graduate of Columbia University anti for many years acted as consulting electrical engineer for many of the building undertakings carried out by Andrew Carnegie, the late J. Pierpont Morgan, and others; together with important power plant and electrical transmission systems.