THE TOLEDO FIRE AND POLICE 
ALARM TELEGRAPH SYSTEMS.
(Report:  February 10, 1937)

FIRE ALARM SYSTEM:

Prior to February 20th, 1899, the City of Toledo was under contract with The American District Telegraph Company for fire alarm box service, the receiving of all fire alarms from such boxes and the transmitting of these alarms to the Fire Department.  The American District Telegraph Company used it’s own type of fire alarm box.  These were usually placed on poles located on business corners and the key for the box was left in charge of some merchant on that corner.

When a box had to be pulled for a fire alarm it was necessary to go to the place where the key was kept and notify the person whom was responsible for the key.  He would unlock the box and turn in the fire alarm.

The discovery of a fire at night invariably met with serious delays in turning in the fire alarm from the box.  Someone had to run to the place where the box key was kept.  Upon arriving at this place he might be tantalized by the sight of the alarm box key hanging on a hook just inside the window of the place and the store keeper asleep at home several blocks away.  There was nothing left to do but to run to that particular house, arouse the sleeper, have him dress, run to his place of business to get the key and by the time the Fire Department would arrived, the fire was often a roaring furnace.

These delays were positively dangerous to life and property.  The Fire Department Officials and the Superintendent of Fire Alarm were cognizant of this pertinent fact and they realized that grave disaster might be the result.  It was through their persistent efforts that the City Council passed an ordinance authorizing the construction of a Fire Alarm Telegraph System, under the supervision of The Superintendent of Fire Alarm Telegraph.

This work was started early in the year 1898 under Superintendent J. T.  Green and by December of that year practically all of the outside construction had been completed.  The circuits were all tested and made ready for service.  Two submarine cables were laid one at the Cherry Street Bridge and the other at the Fassett Street Bridge.

Meanwhile there had been purchased from the Gamewell Company 258 fire alarm boxes, one manual transmitter, relays and such electrical apparatus as was needed for the receiving and transmitting of fire alarms to the Fire Department.  From the Western Electric Company was purchased a telephone board of the latest type at that date, and the new single pen ink writing registers.  The battery charging board, Toledo manufacturers built the register board and the terminal board the relay board.

The second floor rear, of No.  3 Engine House located at Jefferson and Ontario was set aside for the fire alarm office.  In January 1899 work was started and the electrical apparatus was assembled and mounted on the different boards.  The storage batteries were assembled and placed on racks in the attic of the engine house and wires were run from the battery plant to the charging board.

About the middle of February 1899, the work of wiring the relay board, the register board, the telephone exchange and the manual transmitter was completed.  The next few days were busy ones testing the operation of these boards and getting ready for the installation of the fire alarm boxes.

On February 20th, 1899, the first new fire alarm box was placed in service.  This was box Number 212, located at Broadway and Ottawa.  When that box was connected and tested, the new fire alarm system went into service.  That night at 10:54 P.M. this box was pulled for a fire and the alarm was sent in to the Fire Department.  This was the first alarm received over the new Fire Alarm System.

As the City of Toledo grew and expanded, The Fire Alarm System was enlarged to meet the demands for adequate fire alarm protection.  At the time of the installation of The Fire Alarm System, there were in service approximately 125 miles of aerial wire for the alarm box circuits.  The system was about ninety percent aerial wire.  Today there are approximately 1,080 miles of wire in service for the alarm box circuits, engine house circuits, and telephone circuits.  The system is about eighty-five percent underground.

At the time the new Fire Alarm System went in service - February 20th, 1899 - the terminals of the underground cables were very close in.  Going south, the terminal pole was at Huron and Washington. This pole was a huge affair with the fire alarm circuits leading toward Broadway, South Erie, and out Washington Street.  The terminal pole for service to the West End was at Jefferson and Eleventh.  For lower town the terminal pole was at Walnut and Huron.  For East Toledo the pole was at the East End of the Cherry Street Bridge.

Eight years later, 1907, saw the underground terminals farther out.  Going south the terminal pole was now at Broadway and the Wabash Railway.  For the east side the terminal was now as far as No.6 Engine House at Main and Starr.  For the West End the terminal pole was at Jefferson and 23rd.  Small sized cables were being installed in duct facilities in several locations between 23rd Street and the office.  A new terminal pole was at Cherry and Bancroft.

The Telephone Company was quick to recognize the worth of underground installations and began to expand their duct systems in all directions.  Under franchise rights, one duct is reserved for the Fire and Police Alarm cables and this facility was promptly put to use.

The alarm circuits are now entirely underground between the office and Bay View Park in lower town; on the East Side as far out as East Broadway and Oakdale.  In the South End the circuits were entirely underground with but few exceptions, one being the lead out the River Road.  In the West End, the North End, and the West Toledo district there is very little aerial wire in service.  The aerial wire is in such excellent condition as to offer no hazard.

The fire alarm boxes are the “four round” type.  That is, the number is sent in to the alarm office four times when the box is pulled.  When a box alarm is being received, the senior operator throws a switch on the receiving circuit between the first and second round of the box number.  This switch connects a relay repeater and the remaining three rounds of the box number are transmitted to the engine houses by this repeater.  In this manner the fire alarm box on the street actually transmits it’s number to the fire stations.  Immediately following the transmission of a box alarm the senior operator signals the radio operator for the radio transmitter and broadcasts the box number and location to the fire department.

There is a direct telephone trunk line between the fire alarm telephone switchboard and each exchange of the Ohio Bell Telephone Company.  These trunks are reserved for fire alarms.  An alarm over the telephone is received on the fire alarm telephone switchboard from the Ohio Bell Exchange to which the reporting telephone is connected.  The direct trunk from each telephone exchange saves the time that would otherwise be lost if each telephone fire alarm had to be rerouted through the Ohio Bell Telephone Company main exchange.

The senior operator asks for the street number of the fire and checks this by further asking for the nearest street intersection.  He then signals the radio operator for the radio transmitter and broadcasts the fire location.  Each engine house is equipped with a radio loud speaker and thus each station receives the information simultaneously.  Immediately after making the radio broadcast, the number of the nearest fire alarm box to the fire is transmitted over the register circuits. Any fire alarm, box or telephone, is transmitted to the fire department in less than 30 seconds.

The Fire Alarm Telegraph System is comprised of 55 alarm box circuits, 3 gong circuits and 3 register circuits to the engine houses and one watch box circuit to the High Pressure Pumping Station.  There are 77 telephone circuits and 23 telephone trunk lines.  There are 628 fire alarm boxes in service, 478 on the underground and 150 on the aerial wires.  The wire mileage is as follows:

..........................................Underground ...........Aerial............Total

Alarm box circuits .....................553.75..................108.75............662.50
Register circuits............................43.00.....................3.75..............46.75
Gong circuits................................45.00.....................4.25..............49.25
Telephone circuits.......................258.00.....................7.75............241.75
Watch box circuits..........................1.00.....................0.00................1.00

Total............................................900.75.................124.50.........1,001.25
 


There are approximately 325 miles of wire in underground cables, which can be used, if needed, for additional circuits.

There are 2,048 storage batteries used to furnish the electrical current for the fire alarm system.  The ampere-hour capacity is sufficient to run the fire alarm system unaided for a period of ten days, insuring the City of Toledo perfect fire alarm protection should there be any interruption at the source of electrical supply due to any failure at the power house.  A major calamity would not affect the energy supply of the Fire Alarm System.

The battery charging equipment consists of 2 mercury vapor arc rectifiers and 2 motor generators for the fire alarm batteries.  One motor generator for the telephone place, 1 motor generator for the gong circuits and 1 motor generator and dry plate rectifier for the register circuits.

POLICE ALARM SYSTEM:

The rapid development of Police Alarm Telegraph Systems made it mandatory that the City of Toledo build and maintain it’s own signaling service.  In September 1906, a telephone switchboard was installed at the Police Department Headquarters then located on Superior Street between Monroe and Washington.  This switchboard was the latest type build at that date by The Kellogg Company.  It was equipped with ten trunk lines and fifty drops for police telephone circuits.

The construction of the Police Alarm Signal System was begun on April 01st, 1907 and was built during that year under the supervision of Superintendent J. T. Greene.  The room used for the Fire Alarm Headquarters was enlarged and the Police Alarm Office was placed in the new part of the room.

The latest type Gamewell Police Alarm box was bought, together with the relays and such other electrical apparatus as was needed to receive and transmit the police alarms.  The relay board and other boards and panels were built by Toledo manufacturers.  The electrical equipment was assembled and mounted on their respective boards.  The Fire and Police Alarm linemen and cablemen did all this work.

With the completion of the wiring of the central office equipment, the circuits were connected to the terminals and the office was tested.  During April 1908, the police alarm boxes on hand were installed and on May 1st of that year these boxes were pulled by the patrolmen on their districts as they made their hourly reports or when arrests were made.

The Kellogg Company manufactured the telephone switchboard in service at Police Alarm headquarters.  This board had three trunk lines to The Home Telephone Company and two for the Ohio Bell Company.  Fifteen drops were used for the telephone circuits for police alarm boxes and thirty-five drops were used for telephones for the Police Department officials.  There were seven signal circuits for the police alarm boxes to transmit their signals to the central office.

About the year 1910, the City of Toledo began to expand in area and grow in population with amazing rapidity.  The newly acquired areas were, in some instances; so far out that the old city boundary line was now in the near downtown center of the city.  These new additions were entitled to adequate fire alarm box and police alarm box protection.

It was impossible to enlarge the fire and police alarm headquarters at old No.3 Engine House and the new electrical apparatus, which had to be installed, overtaxed the capacity of the room.  Switchboard panels had to be mounted on the walls instead of having the proper floor space.  Some equipment was suspended from the ceiling by strap iron.

The annual reports of The Fire and Police Alarm Telegraph made apparent the need of a new building of fire proof construction.  These reports stressed the lack of proper facilities at the old office to permit any further expansion of the fire and police alarm systems.  Several surveys were made for a suitable location for the new building, but before any definite action was taken the World War came, and the new building project was dropped.

Meanwhile, new ideas for the police alarm signaling system were being developed and tried out.  A new flash light signal to notify the patrolmen on the street to call the alarm office was constructed and installed at Jackson and Michigan Streets.  This signal light was mounted on the alarm box pedestal.  The gas tank was set in a manhole at the base of the pedestal.

When the patrolmen on that district were wanted, the police alarm operator threw a switch in the alarm office, which increased the flow of the current on that particular circuit.  This increase actuated the relay valve on the gas tank and the light began to flash its signal.  The first flashlight went in service on Friday, April 18th, 1919.

This flashlight was so successful in operation that a number of these lights were installed shortly after.  The design of the pedestal was changed to house the gas tank.  A globe replaced the lens and this arrangement gave greater visibility of the flashing signal.

Each year the report of the Fire and Police Alarm Telegraph emphasized the need of a new fire proof building for the exclusive use of these systems.

The National Board of Fire Underwriters Inspectors who made surveys of the Fire Department and the Fire Alarm Telegraph from time to time endorsed this recommendation.

However, the rather dilapidated state of the Central Police Station on Superior Street, together with the very unsatisfactory housing of prisoners drew the attention of the local civil organizations, dinner clubs and various fraternities.  The result was a concerted drive for a new building for the Police Department, and the proposed Civic Center received its start.

The new Safety Building was started in 1924, and was completed and ready for occupancy in March 1925.  Shortly after, the Fire Department Headquarters Building on Jefferson Avenue at Ontario Street was pronounced unsafe.  The project for a new fire proof building for the Fire and Police Alarm system was now given serious attention.

Installation of a new Police Department Telephone Exchange in the Safety Building was started early in the year 1926.  This switchboard was a one position automatic, built by The Chicago Automatic Electric Company, who assembled, wired and tested the new telephone equipment.  The battery plant for this telephone system was placed in the basement of the Safety Building.

On Saturday, May 15th, 1926, a few Police Department telephones were cut over to the new telephone exchange from the old telephone switchboard at the Police Alarm Headquarters on Jefferson Avenue. Sunday, May 16th, 1926, was the day selected to move the Police Department from the old building on Superior Street to the new Safety Building.  On this date, all the police department telephones were cut over to the new exchange.  The old Kellogg Telephone Company switchboard at the Police Alarm Office was now out of service.

On January 16, 1927, a centralized dispatching office at the Safety Building was inaugurated for the Police Department.  This arrangement brought under one head, the dispatching of all Police Department vehicles.   A police sergeant was in command, who had for an assistant, a patrolman detailed as a complaint clerk.  A long desk was placed adjacent to the automatic exchange, and was wired for head set and key operation, instead of telephones, enabling the dispatcher to monitor all incoming calls.  The visual lights on this desk indicated all calls for the dispatcher.  An automatic dial was mounted for the outgoing calls.  This dispatching arrangement remained in force until the completion of the new Fire and Police Alarm Building.

The police alarm boxes are the latest “selector” type, and can be operated for seven different calls.  These are “fast wagon”, “slow wagon”, “ambulance”, “patrolman”, “scout car”, “motorcycle” and “fire”.  The dial indicator inside the box is placed on the call desired and the lever is then pulled.  The box transmits the call or prefix first, and the number follows immediately.  As the prefix comes in, the operator in the alarm office determines at once the nature of the call and acts accordingly.

The telephone exchange for the Police Alarm System is a duplicate of the one in service in the Fire Alarm System.  There are in use, one hundred local telephone lines and ten trunk lines.  There are five direct lines to the dispatcher’s desk; three lines to the fire alarm telephone switchboard, three lines to the police auxiliary telephone switchboard, and three lines to the radio broadcasting room.  Space is reserved on the telephone board for an additional one hundred local lines and fifty trunk lines.

Incoming calls are answered by the assistant dispatcher, who placed these where they belong.  The dispatcher’s desk is equipped with a monitor connection and the dispatcher can hear the incoming call.  This enables him to check all calls and act immediately on all complaints which require the attention of the scout cars or the wagon patrols.

There are 248 police alarm boxes in service, 210 of which are connected to the underground system.

The Police Alarm System is comprised of 25 alarm box circuits, 92 telephone circuits, and 51 auxiliary telephone circuits.  The wire mileage is as follows:

..........................................Underground ...........Aerial............Total

Telephone circuits ........................90.00....................6.00..............96.00
Auxiliary Telephone circuits........552.00..................40.50............592.50
Alarm Box circuits......................260.00...................50.00...........310.00

Total............................................902.00...................96.50...........998.50

The electrical energy for the box signal circuits is supplies by motor generators with dry plate rectifiers for each circuit.  A storage battery float is used on the main supply circuit.  The ampere-hour capacity is sufficient to run the box circuits for a period of seven days.  Thus, uninterrupted police alarm box service is insured against any power failure.

NEW FIRE AND POLICE ALARM 
TELEGRAPH BUILDING:

The location selected was that of the old Erie School, a lot bounded by Erie, Orange, Huron and Beech Streets.  Plans were drawn and the construction of the new building began in early 1930.  This building is the second unit of the Civic Center.


The Alarm Office

The building is of the Colonial style of architecture, with the lower story faced with Bedford stone, the upper stories red brick laid up with white mortar joints, and trimmed with Bedford stone.  A cupola surmounts the building and is covered with copper.  The dome is of lead.  This cupola serves as one of the supports for the radiobroadcasting antenna, a steel mast on the rear of the building supporting the other end.

The building is of sufficient size and so planned as to permit the addition of any electrical apparatus and switchboards, with no alterations.  The operating rooms, battery room, terminal room, cable room, offices, etc. are of sufficient dimension to care for a city three times the present size of the City of Toledo.  Visiting Fire and Police officials have acclaimed it “The finest building of it’s kind in the whole world”.

The building was ready on December 1st, 1930 for occupancy.  During 1931 the latest design electrical equipment for Fire and Police Alarm Telegraph Systems was received.  The relay board is equipped with glass housing for the relays, thus insuring protection against dust.

The necessary cables were installed and connected.  The battery plant was assembled.  The various switchboards were assembled and connected.  The circuits were all tested and made ready for the cut over from the old office.  The linemen and cable men in The Fire and Police Alarm Telegraph Department did all this work.

A contract was given to The Chicago Automatic Electric Company for a new two-position automatic telephone switchboard and telephone plant, which was installed in the new Fire and Police Alarm Building for the Police Department Telephone System.  A dispatcher’s desk was placed adjacent to this telephone exchange, which was wired to monitor all incoming calls and to receive direct, any call from the automatic telephone system.  There was also a microphone for the radio broadcasting.  The work of assembling and wiring these boards was started early in the year 1931.  On Sunday, March 22nd, 1931, this telephone exchange with the associated dispatcher’s desk was cut into service.  The automatic telephone equipment at The Safety Building, which had been used for the Police Department telephones was moved over to the new alarm building and set up for the Fire Department telephone service.

The telephone exchanges are the latest type of machine switching boards.  They are inter-connected to permit telephonic communication between the Fire Department and the Police Department.

The Fire Alarm System was cut over to the new office in October 1931.  Fire circuit No.1 was cutover on Monday, October 12, at 2:30 p.m.  The test was perfect and it paved the way for the balance of the cutover.  On Wednesday, October 14th, 1931, the first fire alarm was transmitted from the new office.  The alarm came from “Indiana and Elizabeth” and the box number transmitted was 145.  The final cutover of the Fire Alarm System was completed on October 28th.  The entire operation was made without any mishap or any interruption of service.

On Sunday, January 24th, 1932, the auxiliary telephone switchboard for the telephone service to the police alarm boxes was placed in service.  The cutover of those telephone circuits from the old office was commenced shortly after 9:00 a.m. and was completed within one hour.  The cut was perfect and there was no interruption of service.

As soon as the Fire Alarm System was cutover to the new office, work was begun on cutting over the Police Alarm System.  The Police Alarm relay board was wired, tested, and made ready.  On Thursday, February 4th, 1932, the wiring of the new police alarm register board was completed.  The signal circuits were tested and the cutover to the new register board was made at once.  This was done without any interruption to the service.

RADIO BROADCAST:

During the year 1928 to 1929, several cities tested out the radio short-wave broadcasting system as a means of communication between their Police Alarm Headquarters and the police cars on the street.  This proved to be highly successful and the experimental stage had passed before the plans were drawn for the new Fire and Police Alarm building.  Space was set aside in the new building for a radio broadcasting plant to be used for the Police Department and the equipment for this plant were installed as the building progressed.

The apparatus used is The Western Electric Company 9 A radio Transmitter.  The Federal Communications Commission granted the Police Department a license to operate and the station call assigned is WRDQ. The output was 200 watts, 2470 K.C.  This power was increased to 400 watts, 2474 K.C. on July 12, 1935 by authority of the Federal Communications Commission.  The first broadcast made over the station was on November 8th, 1930 at 7:00 a.m.

The Fire Department officials quickly recognized the value of the radio as a means of instant broadcast of information.  Radio receivers were installed in all engine houses and the location of the fire alarm is now broadcast to the Fire Department.  This service was inaugurated on August 9th, 1932.

A contract was made between the City of Toledo and the Lucas County Commissioners for radio broadcast for the County Sheriff.  A similar contract was made between the City of Toledo and the Village of Ottawa Hills for radio broadcast for that police department.  There are three microphones on remote control by the radio operator.  One is on the police dispatcher’s desk; one is on the fire alarm telephone switchboard; and one is in the 
County Jail.

Radio station WRDQ is used extensively by the Record Division of the Police Department to check auto license plates at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles of Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and Pennsylvania.  Because of the distance which stolen cars can be driven, it was deemed necessary to radio to the Ohio and Michigan State Patrols and their associated officers, the information on all late model cars, (1933, 1934, 1935 and 1936) reported stolen in Toledo.  This policy was inaugurated in 1936 as an additional public service in apprehending automobile thieves.
Through the State Police Radio Stations, the Toledo Police Department is in direct communication with almost every police department in the states of Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.  The Toledo Police Radio Broadcasting Station can contact many other state police stations if the emergency so warrants.  By this, instant knowledge of criminal activity is known.  The range of radio station WRDQ is very great.   Acknowledgment cards of reception have been received from nearly every state in the Union.

HOW A FIRE ALARM WORKS:

Almost everyone is susceptible to the thrill of a brightly painted fire engine speeding on its way to a fire with bells clanging and sirens screaming.

In fact, almost everyone, regardless of age, has a desire to follow that engine to its destination and witness the thrill of firefighters extinguishing a blaze.  Few people, however, seldom pause to wonder how that fire engine happens to be going in the direction it takes, or how it manages to reach the scene of the fire in the shortest possible lapse of time.  In other words, there is an interesting story back of the visible operation of a fire department which is seldom told, but which represents one of the most scientific and precise phases of fire department operation.  The speed and accuracy with which firefighters and firefighting apparatus are dispatched to the location has a direct effect on controlling the fire and limiting the amount of the loss.  In a broad sense, the successful operation of the fire department is entirely dependent upon the accurate and quick functioning of the fire alarm system.

Toledo’s fire alarm system covers the entire area of the city with a network of cables and wires as intricate, although not as extensive, as those of a telephone or electric light utility.  Power for the transmission of the signal impulses over the lines and cables is supplied by a battery system.  If the alarm system depended upon commercial power for its operation, it would be subjected to the dual interruptions to service that result from storms and other bad weather conditions.  The occurrence of a large fire during a period when private electric power was off would enhance the possibility of a conflagration; hence the alarm system is made independent of possible failure.

A fire may be reported either by telephone or the use of an alarm box.  At the present time, there are 628 alarm boxes located at strategic points throughout the city.  Each box bears a number, which signifies the location of that box.  Number groups represent various sections of the city.  For example, the 400 series is in the north end of the city; the 500 and 700 series are on the East Side; the 600 series covers the LaGrange Street district; and the 800 series is in west Toledo.

The number groups of boxes are further broken down into clusters.  The 410 to 419 cluster indicates one location; the 420 to 429 numbers represent another location, and so on.  In the downtown, high value district, there is an alarm box at each street intersection, numbered in sequence according to the location.  Thus, box number 14 is located at Madison Avenue and Summit Street; box number 15 at Madison Avenue and St. Clair Street and so on.

The importance of the number as a key to the location of the fire is more fully understood when the mechanics of sounding an alarm is explained.  The first step in summoning the fire department consists of breaking the glass in the face of the alarm box, opening the door, and pulling the hook down.  This action will cause the box to begin to transmit automatically the number to the central alarm office.  As the box number comes in on the receiving register the operator immediately consults an index giving the exact location of the box.  A pilot light signals to the operator which register and which circuit is receiving the signal.  The box number is repeated four times in the course of transmission.  Upon receiving the first round of the number the operator throws a switch which connects the receiving circuit to a repeater which sends the remaining three rounds of the box number to all fire stations.

The man on watch in each station takes the alarm, and if the box is located in the district covered by that station, a notation is made on the running card and the first company immediately proceeds to the box from whence the alarm originally came.  Due to the fact that the alarm box which transmitted the signal represents only the approximate location of the fire, it is necessary that the person sending the alarm remain at the box until the fire company arrives in order that the company may be speedily directed to the exact site of the fire.
In addition to transferring the alarm to the station houses, the senior operator also announces the alarm over the police short-wave radio broadcasting system.  Immediately after the full transmission of the alarm both by radio and the automatic alarm system, the operators check all stations by telephone to ascertain that the alarm was properly received.  At the same time, a map notation is made showing that a company is out of its quarters and at a fire.  Upon the return of each company to it’s station, the alarm office is forthwith notified and a report is sent to all stations over the register circuit that the apparatus is again in service.

The second means of sending in a fire alarm is by telephone.  While the box method involves a large outlay of money and a considerable upkeep expense, it is less widely used than the telephone method.  It is necessary, however, to maintain the extensive box system because of the more or less limited use of the telephone.  There are districts in the city where there are only two or three telephones in an area of several city blocks.  An alarm arising in one of these districts is dependent upon boxes for it’s transmission; otherwise a small fire might prove disastrous.

There is a direct line between each telephone exchange and the fire alarm office.  The number of the fire department is carried in a conspicuous place in the telephone directory.  When an alarm is received over the telephone, the alarm operator’s first step is to check the location reported.  This is unnecessary in the case of a box alarm since the box number indicates the location.  The naming of locations of streets over the telephone is somewhat risky for the reason that some street names are similar.  For instance, it is possible to confuse “Summit and Cherry” with “Summit and Perry” unless the person reporting the fire is questioned as to the spelling of the street names.  Madison and Machen, and Sherwood and Sherbrooke are other examples of street names, which are easily misunderstood over a telephone.  The locations of fires indicated by street numbers also offer a high potential error factor.  The alarm operators must be always on guard against this type of error.  It is customary to check all locations given on the telephone by asking for the block number together with the nearest cross street.  The thoroughness with which this location check is carried through may be exemplified by the instance of a fire reported from a large “downtown” hotel.

The operator asks the person reporting the fire for the street number and the nearest intersection.  The person considered the question so ridiculous that he responded with the desired information coupled with several strong phrases bordering on high-tension profanity concerning the operator’s intelligence.  Never the less, the location was checked, and double checked, as is the policy in all cases in all alarms reported by telephone.

Upon ascertaining the correct location of the fire reported by telephone, the operator immediately broadcasts the alarm over the police short-wave radio.  At the same time, the junior operator transmits the number of the alarm box nearest the location of the fire to all stations.  From that point on, the procedure is the same as if the alarm were originally transmitted from the alarm box.

Much of the smooth operation of the fire department during fires is dependent upon the judgment exercised by the alarm operators.  On many occasions the operator is forced to make quick judgments on how to handle critical situations and the decision must be good, else irretrievable damage may result.  Many times throughout the year two alarms are received at the same time, and an instant decision must be made as to which should be given precedence in transmission.  Originally the operators follow the rule of giving precedence to the alarm coming from the district having the greatest danger factor.  Not infrequently, two or more alarms are received on one fire.  The operator must decide whether to transmit both alarms, or send only one company to investigate.  If he transmits both alarms, two or more companies proceed to the location, thereby diminishing the protection strength for the remainder of the district.  If he decided that both alarms are for the same fire and dispatches only one company to handle the situation, and it turns out that there are two separate fire, the operator’s error in judgment is directly responsible for an increased fire loss.

It is in the case of second, third, and fourth alarm fires that the resourcefulness of the alarm operator is really brought into play.  A second alarm fire is one sent in by the commanding officer in charge of the companies fighting a fire.  If the fire is of such proportions that the first companies can not check it’s spread, a second is alarm is send in.  This is a call for additional men and apparatus.

It is necessary that the operator dispatch the required apparatus to the scene immediately.  Each alarm box has a card, which the operator uses in directing additional apparatus in the event of more than one alarm.  This card discloses what apparatus is to be summoned in case of a second alarm and for each alarm on through the general alarm.  It is the custom to summon companies from different engine houses in order to preclude the possibility of leaving a district without adequate protection.

Thus, a special alarm may find the Ladder Company from one station and the pumper from another station directed to move in.  The operation of handling special alarms hardly entails the exercise of any judgment on the part of the operation so long as no alarm comes in from any other neighboring district during the particular run.  When this condition arises however, it is necessary that the operator use his head in directing the right companies to respond.

It follows, therefore, that when there is a special alarm fire in the city and two or three 1st alarm fires at the same time, the responsibility of directing the move of companies rests entirely on the senior fire alarm operator. 

This responsibility continues on, in the case of the filling in of fire companies.  A large fire, such as a fourth alarm fire, requires the use of so many fire companies, that large areas of the city are left unprotected.  In such cases, the alarm operator begins directing the companies in the outlying stations to fill in toward the downtown, high value district.  When this is being done, it frequently happens that a substantial portion of the city’s total fire apparatus is actually moved, although only a comparatively small number of companies actually make the fire run. 
It is obvious that a flawless system is necessary for the transmission of an alarm.  This does not refer so much to the mechanical aspects of the telegraph system, but rather to the technique in handling the individual alarms and keeping account of the many fire companies in and out of service.

One interesting devise with aids in giving the operators an instantaneous picture of the fire department is a large map of the city with each fire company represented by a colored light.  When a company is out on a run the colored light representing that company flashes on and remains lighted until that company is back in service.  This arrangement is of great service at times of special alarms when the operators begin ordering apparatus to fill in toward unprotected areas.

The card index system, which sets forth the individual companies, which are to answer alarms within certain districts likewise, represents an efficient development of the alarm system.  This index gives the reference by which the senior operator determines which pumper company, which ladder company and which hose company is sent to a particular location.  The record is carried through completely so that, even the contingency of a general alarm, the companies are directed to the fire with the view of leaving a maximum amount of apparatus in service as long as possible. 

The Fire Alarm Telegraph and the Police Alarm Telegraph Systems are equipped with the very latest type of receiving and transmitting apparatus known at this date.  The phrase - “FIRE AND POLICE ALARM TELEGRAPH” - is synonymous with Service and Dependability.

The service rendered is now so efficient that our citizens accept it as a matter of course.  It seems as if it must have been so.  Yet it would be far different were it not for the plan of centralization, research and administration, the results of which has given the City of Toledo the finest Fire and Police Telegraph Systems in America, or for that matter, the whole world, as the European countries have nothing in comparison with the systems in use in the United States. 


"KQA-726"