04/24/11 517 W, 4 I - + 6 - 2 How Dispatching Worked at Station 1

Here are some vintage News & Observer photos that help explain the history of dispatching at Raleigh Fire Station 1. The first three were taken on March 30, 1960, the day before the city annexed residents in locations including along Western Boulevard west of the city. Station 8 opened at 12:01 a.m. on April 1, when Chief Keeter sent the second engine at Station 1 to occupy a rented residential structure (which still stands) just north of the intersection of Kent Road and Western Boulevard.

The top two photos show the watch room at Station 1, which is the glass-walled room to your left when you enter the South Dawson Street fire station. The bottom left photo shows the switchboard in the Alarm House, which is the two-story brick building behind Station 1. That was built nine years before the fire station, on a lot purchased for both buildings.

The bottom right photo is from 1949, when Station 1 was located on South Salisbury Street. That room housed both switchboard and dispatcher functions. When the new Station 1 opened in 1953, the story goes, both switchboard and dispatcher functions were housed in the watch room. At some point, the switchboard was moved to the second floor of the alarm house. Need better information there. Maybe it accompanied the introduction of rural fire department dispatching in the 1950s, and expanded duties and equipment therein.

Later, the watch room functions were also moved to the alarm house. Then in 1972, everything was transferred to the new city/county communications center. Keep reading below. Or click to enlarge:


News & Observer photos (top and bottom left), North Carolina State Archives photo (bottom right)

How did dispatching work, between these switchboard and dispatcher functions? Here's my best understanding, circa 1960:

Dispatching for alarm boxes

  1. Fire alarm box is activated somewhere in the city.
  2. The box number is transmitted to all fire stations.
  3. The numbers ring on a gong, and also punch on a ticker tape.
  4. If the box number was on the station run card, the companies responded.
  5. Is there accompanying radio dispatch? Don't know. Department has had mobile radios for only a couple years.
  6. Radios are probably used for marking on scene and clearing the scene.

Dispatching for telephone alarms

  1. Switchboard receives report of fire.
  2. Operator looks up nearest alarm box location to street address.
  3. Operator communicates box number to dispatcher in watch room.
  4. Dispatcher transmits signal of two bells, which sends signal to all fire stations.
  5. Officer at fire station picks up telephone, and dispatcher provides street address and other details.


Learn More

Regarding the alarm bells at the stations, as the stories go, if the bells rang at night, those companies NOT responding stayed awake and by their trucks until… well, until the fire was marked under control, I think. They’d slump in their seats, or lay out on the tailboards, the stories go. Believe that practice continued into the mid- or late-1970s. Again, need to confirm and better document.
Legeros - 04/24/11 - 09:10

Remember personal info?

/ Textile

Comment moderation is enabled on this site. This means that your comment will not be visible on this site until it has been approved by an editor.

To prevent spam we require you to answer this silly question

  (Register your username / Log in)

Hide email:

Small print: All html tags except <b> and <i> will be removed from your comment. You can make links by just typing the url or mail-address.