1. #1
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Post How Are You Alerted?

    I am currently working on an article for a future issue that deals with the many ways that firefighters are alerted to alarms. Of special interest would be any siren vs pager debates active in the volunteer community, and any methods that are truly unique. I would also like to hear from any agencies who may have recently changed their method of alerting, along with the rationale behind the change. Thanks in advance for your participation!

  2. #2
    Bob Snyder
    Firehouse.com Guest


    This part isn't unique, but we're alerted via pager by the countywide dispatch center.

    In addition to the pagers, County activates our house siren, which is one of a slowly dwindling number still in service in our area. The majority of stations in our district have elimiated house sirens mostly because they believe that they represent an unnecessary use of electricity in the presence of pagers (in some cases, this is probably true), or that they find public "nosiness" to be annoying and deactivating the house siren cuts down on public scrutiny (nobody would actually admit to this, but I think it comes into play in some cases).

    We aren't worried about the scutiny one way or another, but we find that the house siren serves a few useful purposes, even if alerting our personnel isn't one of them anymore:

    1. It gives nearby residents warning that there will be personal vehicles and apparatus on the roads very soon, resulting in those residents collecting their kids, moving double-parked cars, etc.

    2. Crew responding in personal vehicles find that, at least while the house siren is cycling, other motorists tend to notice them and clear a path for them much more readily than when it's not.

    3. Although a few people complain about it, it's good PR overall. Residents like to know when something is going on, and they're upset when they don't know. As long as they aren't in the way, that's fine with us. We've occasionally had our siren go down for one reason or another, and that draws many more complaints than it does when it's up and running. During an extended period like that we actually had some negative reactions to fund-raisers because some people "didn't think we were doing anything anymore." We had been considering taking it OOS at that point, but we got it fixed instead.

    Whether it's really necessary or not, that same house siren has been alerting our town to fire calls since 1922 and it's going to keep doing that as long as we can keep it running.

    Lt. Bob Snyder
    FFC#2, Mohnton, PA

    [This message has been edited by Bob Snyder (edited October 08, 1999).]

  3. #3
    Firehouse.com Guest


    Traditional voice paging...
    Our siren is still used at the main station 8am -- 10pm for fires & MVAs...kinda miss the old feeling of running out of the house and hearing the siren wailing at night though!

    Honestly, we would have stopped maintaining it already, but the siren is also used as part of a community-alert system for escapes from our State Correctional Center along with a telephone message-auto dialing system that calls up the neighborhood. I doubt, however, very many people can recognize the difference between the "fire" pattern and the "escape" pattern the siren uses (Fire is 15s on/15s off...Escape is a continous wail)

    We are pushing hard for the dispatch center to implement alpha numeric paging and move away from the voice pagers so we can selectively tone the officers, duty crews, etc.

  4. #4
    Rich McCane
    Firehouse.com Guest


    We use voice paging as well as alpha paging as a back-up. The department still utilizes house sirens between 0800-2000 but they do not always activate and aren't very high on the repair list. We have separate sirens for weather alerting in the community.


  5. #5
    Firehouse.com Guest


    The station I currently run with had a building siren that was activated by the County 911 Center, as well as pagers. However, a few years ago when it got struck by lighting we got rid of it rather than spend money to fix it. We currently get dispatched through the County 911 Center. There are two sets of tones, one for officers and one that sets off all the pagers.
    Back in the early 80's I ran with a volunteer department in Wyoming and they used a air horn on the building and at the same time each members phone would ring with a long continuous ring, when you picked up the phone the 911 Center told you what you had and where. I have no idea regarding the technicial aspects of how they did it.But it worked pretty well.

  6. #6
    Firehouse.com Guest


    Our firefighters are alerted with pagers and the siren. There has been much discussion lately about the siren to include most mentioned in previous posts;

    Noise, electricity, etc. Most feel it alerts the folks around the station to watch out.

    A new issue that has just come up is the issue of emergency warning for tornados, hazardous materials emergencies,etc. The fire siren sounds similar to outdoor warning sirens which could cause some confusion. So, the fire department and the emergency management folks are trying to figure out which way to go.

  7. #7
    Firehouse.com Guest


    Here, we have 100% countywide communications. The 911 center (PSAP) takes all calls..either 911 or police (some PD handle their own admin calls during the day) as well as general use lines for alarm companies to report alarms and other counties to call and request our units.

    Dispatching is handled at the same place. Once the call is taken, it is entered into CAD (computer aided dispatch) terminal and sent to appropriate unit via fax and digital pager as well as a standard voice paging system. EMS is high band, fire is lowband (33 mhz). PD is on high band as well. The dispatchers follow preset alerting plans per each fire or rescue dept. Voice paging is still primary means of alerting with one or two exceptions..where the siren is relied upon by the volunteers. These towns are largely still agricultural and the farmers still listen for the siren. The county system is all computerized and E911 as well. There are also new MDT terminals which will soon be phased in for fire/EMS.

  8. #8
    Todd Trimble
    Firehouse.com Guest


    My county has a centralized call center for all 911 traffic. They dispatch one city PD (the only city of any size in the county) the county Sheriff's Department (http://www.shelbynet.net/~scsd/), the city paid FD, and 6 or so rural volunteer FDs.

    The sheriff, city PD and city FD each have their own repeater set-up in VHF high-band. The volunteer FDs are all dispatched by voice pagers in VHF high-band. There are TAC or fireground operations channels defined for each service, and the volunteer FDs split two ops channels by geographic location (one north of St rd 44, one south).

    Until recently, the city FD used the same dispatch freq as the volunteers. They moved to their own system a couple of months ago. There are definitely some bugs to be worked out now. Specifically, we're having trouble in mutual aid situations (the city FD runs the ALS service which is co-dispatched into county areas with volunteer EMTs). Sometimes the dispatcher will set off tones for one of the vol stations and the ALS rig cross-linked to both frequencies, but then only give voice info on the city freq. This means the pagers go off, then nothing for the volunteers. Makes figuring out what to do & where to go a little tough. Other times the ALS rig will not switch to the county freq when responding (plus the loaner truck they have right now doesn't have that channel on the radio), so the EMTs can't contact them except through dispatch as a relay. I'm sure it'll get smoother with time. Like I said, it's a pretty new situation.

    One other thing we noticed this summer during the field-fire blitz was a widespread failure to shift traffic to an ops channel after the dispatch. Most of the time, this isn't a problem, since we rarely overlap calls (esp after the city moved their traffic to their new repeater). But, this summer we had several instances where dispatch was forced to break in on traffic at a working incident to dispatch something else. We're going to be working on this through training and some pow-wows between the services. It doesn't look (at this time) like we're short on channels, but that we're just not using them as well as we could.

    To get back on topic a little, my dept also has a siren at the station that is not used for callouts, only severe weather warnings. It is controlled either from inside the station, or most often by county dispatch. It also blows once at noon every day as a test. I'm not sure we'd fix it if broke down, but I'd vote for it. I like the ideas mentioned above about using it to warn people in the area that there may be an increase in traffic shortly. I'll have to pitch that idea around the station.

    Todd Trimble
    Fairland Volunteer Fire Department

  9. #9
    Firehouse.com Guest


    First system used:crank phones instead of "longs & shorts" crank the H*** out of it. #2 1960 first dial phones, dial WH-**** all phones hooked to the "fire bar" rang steady until they were picked up or the caller hung up.A roof siren was also added later.The first man on station set off the siren and wrote the location on a chalk board. Present system: Enhanced 911 County Dispatch Voice pagers.The old siren is still used but now as a storm warning.

  10. #10
    Firehouse.com Guest


    We have voice paging from the county 911 center. We have 1 set of tones for all pagers and a second set of tones for Chief's only. County also activates our siren, one set of tones for fire calls (siren cycles up/down 5 times) and another set of tones for EMS (30 second steady cycle). Our siren is also is tripped for a fire alarm at our station, which also hits our own paging system, as well as dials to an outside central monitoring station (steady cycle). Our alarm also monitors each school and nursing home in our district.
    Our encoder will retransmit our pager tones after the county has activated us, as we are in a valley and their signal doesn't always activates our pagers. But to answer your question, we are still using both, voice paging and the siren.

    Be Safe.


  11. #11
    Firehouse.com Guest


    Our system is very good. We are simutaniously alerted by our alarm room via a C.A.D. system, by radio, on our MDT, by printout at the station, and by a light/sound package at the station. They system uses radio and landlines to the station to open up the station speakers and turn on many of the station lights, typically a few seconds prior to this and the vocal message on the radio our MDT is updated with the incident information. A computer printout is given as a backup, but is seldom taken on the call and is more often used to fill out the log book at the end of the shift. Many cheifs and some of the departments on the system also use voice pagers, and most cheifs have a text pager to recieve updates and notification of major incidents and incidents in their area, specialty, etc.

    Alan Romania, CEP
    IAFF Local 3449

    My Opinions do not reflect the opnions of the IAFF or Local 3449.

  12. #12
    Firehouse.com Guest


    In my county we are currently switching over to a new cad system. We are notify about calls through the county paging system for our department. Due to shortages of these pagers the individuall departments have had to buy expense computers and software to run the alpha paging system. It works like this. The dispatch center announce a call, The cad system sends the call to each station vis the printer. From the printeralpha paging software takes the call decodes it and sends it to a group page to the members. The members pager receives the call with the box assisgnment, location and the equipment that is due on the call. The paging software can be program that each mmeber can be page on every call or what ever. Now with the new system wehave to reprogram the paging software. Good luck Mike

  13. #13
    Firehouse.com Guest


    We also use the County Communication method. Voice alerting following pagers being tripped by County. The same alert tones trip are siren which is on a timer. 0700-2200 are the times the siren will sound. 1 whale for EMS and 3 whales for fire calls. I like the siren for if your outside and you don't have your pager on you. I can't hear mine over the lawn mower anyway, but the siren is loud enough to hear over the lawn mower. Plus I agree w/ another commment the it allows the community to know there is something going on and emergency personal will be responding to the station.

    David DeCant
    Originally Mantua,NJ
    Presently Lindenwold,NJ(I'm not a member of any of this District's dept's.)

  14. #14
    Firehouse.com Guest


    All of our calls are dispatched through the county system. They dispatch everything. Calls are diveded up into two types, general (all call)-fires, mutual aid, specialized rescue; and district -medicals, mvas, CO, public assists, ect. A general tone is a solid tone and districts are a series of beeps.

    Stay safe...

  15. #15
    Brad Barton
    Firehouse.com Guest


    We dispatch 8 Fire Depts in St. louis County, MO. All depts we dispatch use a "plektron" at each firehouse and 3 of those depts also use voice pagers. 2 depts also use alpha-numeric pagers for working alarms.

  16. #16
    Firehouse.com Guest


    We utilize both pagers and sirens. (EMS gets one long blast on the sirens, fires get 3, plus an uncoded air horn). The audible alerts are sounded from 6AM - 8PM with the exception of structure fires, for which they are used 24 hours a day.

    For a short while we stopped using the audible devices. We returned to the audible devices because not all of the pagers were always activiating in some of the dead zones of our district.

    It is interesting to note that we actually got more complaints when the audible devices WEREN'T used, as opposed to when they were.

    While most of the departments in Suffolk County are dispatched by the County Fire Communications Center, we are self-dispatched
    with a 24 hour paid dispatcher (everything else is volunteer with the exception of daytime EMS).

    (Rev) John G. Fleischmann, FF/EMT-D, Chaplain
    Center Moriches LI Fire Department

    [This message has been edited by ResQRev (edited December 16, 1999).]

  17. #17
    Firehouse.com Guest


    We are dispatched by the 911 center in a bigger city 12 miles north of us, they dispatch us using voice paging, and repeaters. They will first dispatch us just from the center, wich at times, does not activate all the pagers becouse of the distance, and large hills in the way, then then dipatch us through a repeater system, from the FD right in town, which seems to work great. This is the same for every call, and we will still use the old "air-raid" type siren for any report of a structure fire, any time. and we also the siren for any fire in the summer time.

  18. #18
    Firehouse.com Guest


    Our department utilizes a voice paging system (Minitor II's / VHF) as well as the house siren which is actived on all alarms, during anytime of the day. (Between 22:00 and 07:00 the siren will only run for about 2 seconds, otherwise 3 mins). We do have a back-up alpha-numeric system as well. All general dispatching is done by the PD in town, but we can be dispatched by two mutual aid towns, HQ, as well as the county.

  19. #19
    pvfr fyrfyter
    Firehouse.com Guest


    my dept. still has the use of the civil defense/ emergency management siren for all fire calls. we also use voice pagers for all fire and rescue calls. siren goes 24/7 with a daily test at noon. the siren is radio activated by dispatch/activated at station. just put up new siren about 2 years ago. have trouble with lightning strikes to the area repeater so still have old phone tree set up for back up. dispatch calls set order of numbers until they get someone who can set off page.

  20. #20
    Firehouse.com Guest


    We still use both the voice pager and the good old siren on the station. The siren only runs from 0700-2200. I like the old siren going on the station. Like everyone else said, it is nice to have and hear it wail as I run to the station is nice to have!


  21. #21
    Firehouse.com Guest


    We still use traditional tone alerts. 911 has a set of tones which sets off our siren and a set of tones which trips our paging system. We can also manually dispatch ourselves through our paging system.

  22. #22
    Firehouse.com Guest


    In my old district we were on alpha numeric pager, which covered half the city of Sydney. In the district ive just transferred to we are on phone contact. The district duty officer gets the call from stae fire command and then contacts the brigade duty officer's mobile phone. The brigade duty officer then notifies other members by phone while making his/her own way to the station. Pretty soon however we are moving to pagers but being in a rural area the coverage is not that good and limited to the immediate town area. Hopefully we will also be maintaining phone contact.

  23. #23
    Firehouse.com Guest


    Our fire department, and many others in the county, is dispatched via a county dispatch; the larger cities that have multiple stations or that are very busy have their own. All departments have their own channel assignment on an 800 Mhz trunked fleet, and we use a low-band freq. for initial dispatch. When our department is dispatched for a call, our tone is simulcasted over the low-band freq. to activate the station alert and home pagers, and over our 800 Mhz channel. We communicate solely on our 800 Mhz channel then. We also use alpha-numeric pagers to recall personnel/shifts for station coverage. Our siren was deactivated over 10 years ago when it was a volunteer department.

  24. #24
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Thumbs up

    We are a a 100% volunteer fire dept in new york state.. I am a Dispatcher for 3 Fire departments and a Ambulance and one Police Department. Our county has a 911 center that My police dispatch operates as a PSAP for. The county 911 Dipatcher about 60% of fire and Police Calls in the County ,90% of the ems comes out of the 911 center .. The other 40% of Fire and Police are dispatched by there local police communications centers.

    AS for the siren's my Fire department along with our board of Fire commissoners has come to an compromise with the General Public about the operation. It is on 5am to 11pm (7) seven days a week .. We still have a noon siren also.. My F.D. ran 407 calls last year alone. In our county most F.D.'s still have there siren and are fighting to keep them.

  25. #25
    Jeffrey Casson
    Firehouse.com Guest


    We use both voice pagers and sirens in my department. Sirens are only is use between 0700 and 2300 though. The sirens are still used because although we all do have pagers, if we forget to bring them out with us or we are in the yard, we still hear that there is a call. They are also a little nostalgic because I remember hearing them for as long as I have been around when there was a fire call.

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