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.
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.
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.
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.