We live in an age when technology is progressing so rapidly that many items we grew up with are now obsolete. Case in point: the typewriter, the pay phone and the eight-track tape. Add the joker box or telegraph alarm box to that growing list. An interesting icon from fire fighting history, it was once the primary means of dispatching fire companies in major cities throughout the United States and England. During a 50-year period, these “boxes” appeared on just about every city street corner. Here’s how they worked.
The box was connected to a telegraph wire that went to every fire station in the city. Inside each box was a spring-loaded wheel with bumps on it. The bumps corresponded to the number given to the box. For instance, if the box’s number was #123, the wheel would have one bump, then two bumps, and then three. When someone pulled the handle located outside the box, it released the spring-loaded wheel, causing it to turn. The bumps pressed down on a key, sending an electrical signal to every fire station in the city. In the stations, a bell would ring out the number of the box. At the same time, it punched holes in a paper tape at the watch desk. Fire companies assigned to this particular box would dispatch themselves to the fire. What’s most interesting is that every fire station in the city had to keep track of every other fire station—just in case the station that was assigned to that box had already been called to another fire. Interestingly, telegraph alarm boxes were widespread throughout the 1920s, 30s, 40s and 50s, and in some cities, they were still being used during the 1960s and 70s.
How did the box get reset after the fire? Well, the fire chief, of course. He simply used a key to open the box, rewound the spring—and the system was ready to go once again.
All Tapped Out?
Here’s a bit of trivia you may not know: When the fire was finally under control and the fire chief returned to reset the box, he would “tap out” a signal indicating that the box was clear because the fire was now out. In many cities the code for under control was “1-1” and the code for all companies clear was “6-6”. Fire personnel at the various stations waited to hear that the fire was “tapped out.”
The photograph is from the Fire Museum of Maryland.
Earlier this year, we introduced firefighter and fire blogger, Dave LaBlanc. This excerpt is from his most recent post on whether or not fire service has shifted too far from basics to last chance training. Dave appreciates opinions and discussions, so please click through to his blog and share your thoughts.
ARE WE MISSING THE TARGET?
For those of you that follow the news and happenings of the fire service, you may have noticed an increase in the number of bailouts reported. Now certainly some of this is a result of the media figuring out that a firefighter bailing out isn’t a normal occurrence, so as one outlet begins reporting it, others follow suit. But it begs the question, why? Why are so many of our brothers bailing out? Have that many incidents occurred where things have gone that wrong?
This year’s Safety Stand Down had the following theme: Surviving the Fire Ground: Fire Fighter, Fire Officer & Command Preparedness. Now that is a great topic, and certainly one that should be a part of every firefighter and every officer’s training. Knowing what to do when you get in trouble certainly goes a long way toward saving firefighter lives. But what about preventing our members from getting in trouble in the first place? Is that something that we focus enough on?
How many hours did you spend on fire behavior this year? Two, five, ten? How many more did you spend on building construction? Until we understand our enemy, the fire and the building we operate in, how can we expect not to get in trouble? Until we understand what the environment we work in feels like through our PPE, how we can expect our firefighters not to go in too far. Until we address the need for an awareness of the hazards of the situations we operate in, how can we expect our firefighters and officers to make good decisions?
John Norman writes that a firefighter should never put themselves in a position where they have to rely on someone else to get out. Think about that one simple statement. It covers a lot of territory. As firefighters we must constantly evaluate where we are operating, what the conditions are, and what our way out is. We need to do this while trying to accomplish our goals for that particular fire.
Read this entire blog post and share your thoughts here: http://backstepfirefighter.com/2011/07/18/are-we-missing-the-target/
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Fire-Dex pulled out all the stops this past week! Our team, with help from our distributor Ferrara Fire, managed to custom fit from HEAD to TOE several big-name Hollywood actors on the set of the upcoming movie Fire With Fire.
Fire With Fire is filming in the New Orleans area, and is about a fireman’s decision to take an unexpected course of action when he’s threatened by a man who he’s been ordered to testify against. This thriller is starring Bruce Willis, Josh Duhamel, and Rosario Dawson.
Fire-Dex gear was provided to the following actors: Josh Duhamel who is the main character, James Lesure and Eric Winters will all being wearing Fire-Dex gear in the movie. Check out our on-set pictures!
Stay tuned for more news around this film, along with more on this story as Fire-Dex goes Hollywood!
More movie information can be found here: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1925431/.
What other movies about firemen are your favorites? Head on over to our Facebook page and tell us!
We continue our Kickin’ Back Employee Series, with Stacey Reynolds.
Stacy began at Fire-Dex as a sewer and through training over the years and “a tremendous amount of support,” she is now a Design Technician.
“I get to work on creating new products or options from start to finish through the NPOR process,” said Stacy. “I never get bored! My favorite part of my job is working on the new designs and improvements to our gear.”
How Fire-Dex Is Better Than Its Competitors
“Aside from the simple fact that it’s better because I work here, it’s the best because we listen to our customers and we give them what they ask for. I know this because that is my job!”
Advice To Fire-Dex Clients
“Don’t be afraid to ask. If we don’t offer a pocket or option, ask us.”
Four Things You Didn’t Know About Stacy
- “I love fishing! I even bait my own hook and take the fish off, unless it’s a catfish or has teeth.”
- “I used to want to be a model but I have given that dream up to be a fashion designer.”
- “I didn’t know how to sew before I started working at Fire-Dex.”
- She’s a scrapbooker. “I love taking pictures and putting them in an album with lots of details and creativity.”
Coke or Pepsi?
For years bucket brigades served as the best method for transporting water to extinguish a fire—at least until hand pumpers came on the scene. These were actually more like hand tubs with long, parallel handles, and they required many volunteers to pump up and down rapidly in an effort to continuously transport water from the tub. Although they were a giant step up from the old bucket brigades, the hand pumpers were limited as people quickly grew tired from the pumping. Nevertheless, they were widely used throughout the 1700s.
Enter the steam pumper, a major advancement that first appeared in the United States in 1840. The steam pumper, with its ability to supply continuous water, did so without using human muscle. As steam pumpers became more widespread, fewer volunteer firefighters were needed in major cities. Instead, the first paid fire departments emerged. Beginning in Cincinnati in 1853, paid firefighters ushered in an era of firefighting that included new concepts and inventions and widespread technological advances. These included the telegraph alarm system, alarm box running assignment cards, sliding fire poles—and horses. The entire landscape of firefighting was changing.
Photo from the FASNY Museum of a hand drawn apparatus that was later converted to a horse drawn apparatus.