History of Alerting in the Fire Service

Thank you to EaseAlert™ for contributing the following guest blog post. EaseAlert™ is a state-of-the-art Fire Fighter Alerting System (FFAS) designed to reduce stress and improve efficiency for fire and EMS crews. Zetron is thrilled to partner with a company doing ground-breaking work to improve the health of firefighters. You can check out the original post on their blog here. If you’d like to learn more about EaseAlert™, we’ve included more resources at the end of this post.

The first documented system of fire alerting goes back to 1658. Firefighters would patrol the city streets armed with buckets and ladders, searching for the telltale signs of fire. Should they happen upon a fire, they would ring their bells and shout warnings to the local community.

It was a woefully inefficient system, but it was the most effective alerting method of the time. Fortunately, improvements were made towards the 1800s when a series of bell towers, or fire towers, were strategically placed around a city’s neighborhoods that could warn the surrounding community should a fire break out.

The arrival of the telegraph during the 1850s allowed for a slightly more advanced fire alerting system. Two alarm boxes with telegraph keys were connected via a telegraph cable. One box is kept in the central alarm station, and the other is placed somewhere easily accessible out in the neighborhood.

Alerting the station was a two-person job, with one operating the crank handle to generate the electricity for the signal while the other operator would use the telegraph key to rapidly tap out a morse-coded message detailing the location of the fire. A telegrapher at the central station would then relay the address to the fire department.

Technology kept advancing, and our first electric fire alarm system went into widespread use before the turn of the 20th century. This new style of fire alerting system was the first to use a thermostat as a trigger to power an alarm bell and set sprinklers off to help contain the fire. It was primitive by today’s standards but still a step in the right direction.

Fire Alerting Systems for the Modern Fire Station

Since those early days, communication centers and fire stations have adopted more advanced forms of fire alerting using radio-based systems. These systems are capable of relaying critical information to first responders that let them know where the fire is and what they are up against so they can prepare in advance.

Radio-based systems are still in use, but they have significant downsides for larger operations, including not being able to alert multiple units at a time, misunderstood messages, and putting distressed callers on hold while alerts are sent out.

They are an excellent system for smaller fire stations, but they are also used as a reliable backup system that complies with requirements for redundancy according to NFPA guidelines.

Fortunately, new technology and research are creating many opportunities for emergency services to implement even more advanced systems that benefit first responders and the community they serve.

Automated Fire Station Alerting (FSA)

Urban expansion and growing populations often put a lot of strain on fire departments dealing with more calls using the same or fewer resources. Automated FSA systems deliver a solution for cash-strapped fire stations that are increasingly asked to do more with less.

An automated FSA system can significantly enhance the capabilities of CAD, as all the information related to the emergency can be delivered to first responders without having to put the caller on hold.

Fire station alerts can be configured in various ways, including:

  • Voice dispatching
  • Automated “rip and run” printers
  • Starting countdown timers
  • Activating multi-unit indicator lights
  • Opening bay doors
  • Shutting off gas stoves
  • Switching over traffic lights for faster exits

 

As you can see, an automated FSA system can automate many procedures and cut response time down by the precious few seconds needed to save lives.

With all the bells and whistles that CAD and FSA systems bring to the table, there is still more that can be done to improve fire alert systems, especially when you consider the health and safety of the crew.

Resources

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