The Round Table
What type of citizen, fire alarm reporting (to your department) do you have now? Are you satisfied with it, and if not what type of system would you like to have?
George Braeske, Chief, Bergenfield, N.J.: Due to the fact that we are primarily a volunteer department, the police department dispatches all of our alarms. At present we have a telephone system located on telephone poles throughout the borough. We have had much success with this type of system mainly because the person turning in an alarm has to tell the dispatcher where and what type of fire.
With this system we’ve had very few false alarms in comparison to a pull alarm type system in our schools where we have numerous false alarms either by vandals or purely accidental.
Ray E. Eiler, Chief, Fullerton, Calif.: We have 65 fire alarm boxes which are located at principal intersections, and in high value areas. We lease the lines from the Pacific Telephone Company, and these lines are connected to the fire dispatch emergency reporting board.
The informant speaks directly to the dispatcher and can request other emergency services such as police or ambulance. The residential areas do not have a fire alarm reporting system, other than the private telephone which most of our residents have in their homes. We constantly remind our citizens that the quickest way to receive help is to call the fire emergency number, or to use a fire alarm box. We periodically distribute telephone stickers to our citizens with the fire emergency number. We are not completely satisfied with our emergency telephone number, because it is very difficult to remember, but in time the 911 system will solve that problem.
H.C. Lawson, Chief, Fountain Valley, Calif.: Our city does not have a citizen automatic fire alarm reporting system. We rely on the existing phone system. We are one of four cities which have a joint power agreement to use central dispatching for transmitting alarms. This system has enabled us to eliminate boundaries between cities, allowing the nearest fire company to be dispatched to the scene regardless of jurisdiction.
We are satisfied with our current system, and feel tfiat we have reduced considerably the possibilities of false and prank-type calls. I would like to see all public pay phones have the ability to report emergencies using a simple/easy number, such as 911, without the need for a coin.
J.A. Letzing, Chief, Durham, N.C.: We are using telephone boxes linked directly to an emergency communications center. The telephone boxes are located at schools, hospitals, and most intersections with signal lights. They are leased from the telephone company at a monthly rate per box.
We are satisfied with this system. It seems to be working out well and has reduced our false alarms to almost zero compared to the false alarms previously received on a pull box fire alarm. We have also converted to the telephone number (911) for all emergencies.
Jesse S. Cheek, Chief, El Dorado, Ark.: All our alarms come in over the telephone. Our city has a population of 25,000 and the telephone is sufficient for us.
Mike S. Puntillo, Chief, Addison, I11.: Most fires and other emergencies are reported to the fire department by telephone. Included in our fire alarm office are remote alarm receiving boards. All of the schools in our district have their internal fire alarm systems hooked up to the alarm boards through leased phone lines. Factories and stores with sprinkler systems or fire alarm systems are also monitored on the alarm boards. The fire alarm office, which is housed in one of our two fire stations, is manned around the clock by four full-time radio operators working 12 hour shifts.
We are very satisfied with our alarm receiving methods, even though we have no outside fire alarm boxes. We feel we have adequate public phones in our district. The phone company is currently in the process of converting the public phones over to “dial tone first,” which would allow the caller to report emergencies without even having a dime.
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The Round Table
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Robert E. Redican, Chief, Meriden, Conn.: At present, fire alarm reporting is done by telephone and street alarm boxes. We are anticipating in the future having a voice reporting system, along with radio box reporting in strategic locations in the outer city limits not now covered by our local signal system.
Raymond Lay, Chief Eureka, Calif.: We own and maintain a municipal alarm system. This is supplemented by the commercial telephone facilities. We are satisfied with this type of alarm and believe it fits our particular needs.
We are building a new headquarters station which will be completed in August of this year, and we have on order more of the same equipment. In making this decision many areas were studied. Other types of alarm systems either cost more than the salaries of my maintenance men or almost the same, and since the initial investment was already made, we decided to continue with it. In our cool, wet climate we have found that open aerial construction is the best method; it allows for the location of any trouble spot and the repair in the shortest amount of time.
We have found that during serious fires any telephone alarm received is backed up by an alarm box activated by a citizen. The false alarm problem was somewhat minimized by the installation of break glass doors in those areas where recurrent false alarms are prevalent.
Frank J. Luddy, Chief, Watervliet, N.Y.: We have a pull lever fire alaram system with coded signals, and we are satisfied with it.
Arnold Tobias, Chief, Whiting, Ind.: Presently, we have a three-fold, type fire alarm box with a five circuit console.
We’ve had nothing but trouble with this system ever since it was put in service. What I would like, is a system that would require very little maintenance, one which would eliminate aerial wires, which play havoc during wind storms. I have been in touch with the Illinois Bell System about installing telephones. Under the contract the phone company would service and maintain their equipment, but the rental price is too high.
J.W. Verbeck, Chief, Buena Park, Calif.: At present we have 78 telephone type street alarm boxes manufactured by the Bell System, mounted on pedestals, with a direct line to an alarm board in the headquarters dispatch center.
The alarm boxes are activated by opening a door and lifting the phone off the hook. This has caused us to average approximately 1100 no voice contacts (NVC’s) a year. It is difficult to tell whether it is a malfunction of the alarm system itself or if some person has opened the box and momentarily lifted the receiver, as both actions result in the same signal at our board.
I would like to see a system where there is some device that must be broken, such as glass, in order to open the door before you can use the phone. In this manner, it would cut down on the number of NVC’s. There should also be some type of light above the box to identify the box. In general, we are satisfied with the concept of the voice communication system since we are able to identify the type of emergency and then send the appropriate equipment.
Harry L. Yourth, Chief, Maplewood, N.J.: We are presently using a telegraph fire alarm system. We would be content to remain with this system if it were not for the false alarms. Last year, we had an increase of 150 percent in false alarms. If the choice were ours, we would prefer the voice communication system.
L.L. Stevens, Operations Chief, Culver City, Calif.: Most of our alarms are received by telephone. We use both a hard line telegraph alarm system and radio alarm boxes. The telegraph system is being replaced in favor of the radio system which we prefer. There are some drawbacks to a radio system; however, the advantages outweigh the drawbacks sufficiently to warrant the transition.
Warren D. Tilman, Acting Chief, Fairbanks, Alaska: We have a call box system, with limited distribution in strategic locations in the city. Although our operations are satisfactory, the number of boxes is not.
Robert E. Seaton, Deputy Chief, Knoxville, Tenn.: We have 300 telephone alarm boxes located all over our city. These are maintained by South Central Bell Telephone Company. We are very satisfied with system and service.
L.G. Wade, Chief, Redding, Calif.:We have for a number of years used a pull box fire alarm system. As other departments, we are plagued with numerous false fire alarms. The voice communications system appears to remedy this situation greatly. We have just begun converting our system to the voice communication system.
John P. Townley, Chief, Plainfield, N.J.: We have an excellent, well-maintained, telegraph street box system comprised of 225 boxes. We are not satisfied, but only because of the false alarm problem and not the basic system. We have been experiencing a 25 percent false ratio when compared to total alarms. Our false alarm ratio when compared to total street boxes is approximately 80 percent.
We are preparing to convert 16 of these boxes along heavily traveled roads, to voice boxes on the existing telegraph system. If we are satisfied with the results of this pilot program, every consideration will be given toward changing all telegraph boxes to voice boxes. I would prefer having a hands-free emergency call system.