There are five ways in which fires can be reported in Brick City:
Telephone Alarms: This is the most common method in which a civilian uses a telephone to dial one of three numbers, including 9-1-1, which is answered by the BCPD. There is also a special 7-digit telephone number published in each borough for the specific purpose of reporting fires. Lastly, dialing "0" routes the call through a telephone company operator which can transfer the call to the FDBC Communications Offices.
Alarm Boxes: The second most common method is by means of F.D.B.C. alarm boxes in the street and in certain public buildings such as schools and hospitals as well as highways, bridges, etc. These consist of the following primarily two types. The first is mechanical boxes, also commonly called pull-boxes or telegraph boxes in which a spring-wound mechanism alternately opens and closes an electrical circuit thereby rendering a coded number linked to the specific location of the box. Until the advent of the STARFIRE Computer-Assisted Dispatch System (CAD), dispatchers had to physically count the taps from mechanical boxes when they were received in the central offices. Today, a "Box Alarm Readout System" (B.A.R.S.) display handles that aspect of the job. The second type is the "Emergency Reporting System" (E.R.S.) boxes that are equipped with buttons to notify either FDBC or BCPD, allowing either department's dispatcher to have direct voice communication with a reporting party. E.R.S. boxes began to replace mechanical boxes in many areas of the City beginning in the 1970s.
"Class 3" Alarms: Less common than the other two means of reporting fires are so-called "Class 3's" which are routed through commercial alarm companies. These firms monitor sprinkler systems, standpipes, smoke detectors and internal pull-stations in non-public spaces such as factories, warehouses, stores, and office buildings. When alarms are received from such accounts, these companies pass the information to the FDBC communications offices, usually by dedicated telephone circuits.
Verbal Alarms: Refers to an instance in which a civilian verbally reports a fire directly to a firehouse. The personnel in the station will attempt to investigate, or immediately respond to the incident. The house-watch (firefighter on front desk duty) will call the borough dispatcher to advise that they are responding on a verbal alarm and will describe the nature of the incident as reported. The dispatchers will then transmit an appropriate response for the incident based on the description from the firehouse.
Radio Alarms: This is an alarm given over FDBC radio to dispatchers from any member of the uniform force of the fire department, be it a firefighter or the Fire Commissioner. Most often these come from engines, ladders and battalion chiefs who are in the field, but they have been called in by fire marshals, chaplains and on at least one occasion, by the late Fire Commissioner and Chief of Department.
When a member of the public dials "911" they speak with a BCPD 911 operator who assigns the call to where it needs to go based on the information provided.
If it is police related, the information is sent to an BCPD radio dispatcher for the precinct or special unit concerned.
If it is a fire, hazmat, or rescue incident, the BCPD 911 operator transfers the call by dedicated phone line to the appropriate FDBC borough fire alarm office. However, the BCPD may notify their own ESU division to respond. The FDBC also answers a few direct EMS calls, but most go by telephone directly to the FDBC EMS central office. EMS alarms that require a first responder will be computer switched to the appropriate borough fire alarm office, for an appropriate apparatus response.
Critical Information Dispatch System
CIDS stands for Critical Information Dispatch System, and is pronounced by the dispatcher as "Sids". CIDS information which is transmitted to units in the firehouse and en route is information that is collected on a building during inspections and by public input, which would have an impact on fire-fighting operations. Such things as:
type and length of line stretch (or hose),
number of apartments per floor,
unsafe conditions, standpipe conditions, and
anything else the Bureau of Fire Communications or the FDBC Staff Chiefs deem important
This information is printed on the fire ticket and can be read by the dispatcher if requested. This information is also read automatically when a signal 10-75 (working fire) or higher signal is given or when the supervising dispatcher deems it is important for the units to have it before arrival at an incident.
A Signal 10-75 is transmitted by the first arriving fire company for a working fire or other incident where it appears that the assigned companies will likely all be put to work at a fire or other emergency. Contrary to belief a 10-75 can be transmitted where the emergency is non-fire related but appears to require a full first alarm assignment. When a 10-75 is given a Rescue Company and a Squad Company are automatically assigned, unless they went on the box. In addition a third and fourth engine company as well as a second truck company and a F.A.S.T. truck (ladder company) are assigned, along with an additional battalion chief. Notification is made to the deputy (division) chief for the district, and he almost always asks for a fire ticket and starts his response.
When All Companies are put to work, the Signal 7-5 is transmitted over the Starfire computer system, but on the radio the listener will simply hear the terms "All Hands" or "All Companies at Work (or Working)". If the All Hands is in a subway or railroad facility, or any other location where communications might be difficult, a Field Communications Units is sent. A Deputy Chief is mandatorily assigned on transmission of the Signal 7-5, but he almost always has responded on the 10-75 signal.
Special calls for additional units above a Signal 7-5 are by number and type of unit. A Dispatcher's greater alarm, formerly used to fill out special call requests during busy periods of fire activity, has been eliminated from dispatch procedures.
Higher alarms bring additional ladders, engines and special equipment, depending on location and type of incident. Greater alarms are a Second (Signal 2-2), a Third (3-3) and Fourth (4-4) and a Fifth (5-5). Technically there are no alarms greater than a Fifth Alarm and no computer signals exists for them. If a chief asks for a sixth or higher alarm, it has to be written out as such in the computer and companies are assigned by the Supervising Dispatcher of the Tour. Borough calls and simultaneous calls, previously used for incidents that required more than a five alarm assignment, have been eliminated from dispatch procedures.