With the Editor
A simple news release by the Federal Communications Commission last June contained information of vast importance to the fire service.
The message predicted a mushrooming use of walkie-talkies, television stations and plane and train radio and told about the Commission’s plans to avert future radio traffic jams in the nation’s airways.
The high point of the statement was the estimate by the F. C. C. of radio growth which will take place in the next few years. According to that authority —and it ought to know what it is talking about—
Standard broadcasting stations will increase from 1,000 to 1,400.
Frequency modulation (FM) stations from 50 to 3,000.
Television stations from six to 200 or 300.
Radio-equipped planes from 3,000 to 50,000.
Aviation ground stations from 700 to 2,500.
Two-way service for autos, taxicabs, etc., from one city to 200 cities. Radio-equipped railroads from one road to 150.
Fire department radio from 50 cities to 5,000.
Citizens walkie-talkie from none to 200,000.
Amateur operators from 60,000 to 100,000.
Currently with this statement, we learn that the Western Union Telegraph Company has completed arrangements for telegraph service to and from more than 5,000 mobile radiotelephone units already equipped with radiotelephones through the Bell System and other telephone companies. Already people can not only telephone from a moving taxicab or car to any regular telephone user on the system, but can send telegrams collect, if desired, over air and wire.
In July, F. M. radio was installed on 127 motor buses and 31 trolleys in Cincinnati, Ohio, to provide day-long programs of news and music to bus riders. As this is written some 400 motor buses, trolley coaches and street cars in that city are being so equipped. Other cities, including Washington, D. C., are doing likewise.
What does all this mean to the fire service?
It means, first of all, quicker and broader contact with people in all walks of life; it provides facilities for directing the masses. In short, it means mass contacts, mass education, mass enlightenment and mass direction should the occasion require. But this is only part of the overall picture.
Of more importance, these increasing radiotelephone-equipped mobile units in cars, buses, taxicabs, public conveyances, trains, etc., are multiplying manyfold the nation’s fire alarm communication facilities. It is not exaggerating to say that each such mobile unit is a travelling fire alarm station. Already many alarms of fire and notifications of other emergency cases calling for the services of the fire department have been flashed from these perambulating radio-equipped vehicles. This journal has told about some of these cases, such as the use of taxicab radiotelephone in emergencies by chief officers to summon help, and direct operations on the fire ground; to warn of impending disaster and the like.
It isn’t pure fantasy to predict that any day now we will read accounts such as this in our local paper: “The fire was discovered by a milkman making his early dawn deliveries, who promptly radioed the fire alarm to the local fire department through his company radio dispatcher.”
Nor is it a figment of the imagination to envisage members of the fire service, as well as the public, watching on the television the blow by blow fire fighting operations of fellow fire fighters in combatting serious fires.
Of course this progressive development isn’t going to replace the recognized and standard fire alarm telegraph systems. The corner fire alarm box and to even greater extent, the private building box and auxiliary alarm system, will continue to be the main reliance of the fire service.