Visual Alarm Speeds Response
Believed to be the first of its kind, a visual alarm system is reducing the time required for dispatching companies and therefore is cutting response time in the Santa Clara, Calif. Fire Department.
The new system, which replaced the use of paper tape and coded street intersection numbers, consists of three components: a dispatcher’s keyboard/ memory unit, a strip printer and a lighted display face 6 inches high and 8 feet long. There is a lighted display face in the front of each firehouse so that officers and drivers can see the box location from their apparatus. This system has been successfully integrated with a radio system so that the best features of each is used.
Under the new visual alarm system, the dispatcher selects the proper running card from the files for the location of the emergency. The card shows the stations that are to respond.
The dispatching keyboard has a selective call button for each station, and the dispatcher depresses the buttons for the stations that will respond. He then presses the alarm button. In the stations affected, a pulsating electronic tone notifies the crews that an emergency response is being transmitted. At the same moment, relays in each affected station turn on emergency lights and turn off stoves.
The dispatcher then announces over the department radio system the type of emergency, the address and the units that will respond.
Immediately after doing this, he activates the dispatching keyboard, which resembles a typewriter, and prints out the same information on a strip printer using electrosensitive paper. The electrosensitive paper activates the lighting to set up the alarm location and type on the lighted display face.
At each responding station, a button on the strip printer is pressed to notify the dispatcher that the alarm was received.
With this new system, five or six emergency units can be notified in 18 seconds and they can be out of quarters in 30 seconds. Thus, out-ofquarters time is considerably reduced from the time taken under our former dispatching procedures.
If either the radio or strip printer fails, the other can still operate. The visual alarm system uses leased telephone lines and the radio system operates on the 115-volt station electrical power. Each station has an emergency power supply to maintain radio reception and transmission in the event of failure of public power supply.
This new dispatching system has given flexibility, dependability and speed to the Santa Clara Fire Department dispatching procedures. The visual alarm system was conceptually devised by Chief L.J. George and Communications Coordinator Max Watson with the assistance of the administrative and engineering staff of Brooks Optronics of Santa Clara.