The age old method to alert the membership to a fire alarm fell upon a Village watchman, who after hearing a resident scream, or when finding a fire, would run to the Methodist Church on Fourth Street and ring the bell to alert the membership. The brickyards had steam whistles that would sound on the north side of town. Near the turn of the 19th century, the Lighting Company on West Broad Street installed a ‘whistle’ on its roof, dubbed the ‘Screecher’, that would be sounded when there was an alarm. This system was in place until 1908, when the Village of Haverstraw contracted with the Gamewell Company to install street pull boxes. 12 new pull boxes were installed throughout the Village. The system remains in place today. When a box is triggered, a spring-loaded wheel spins and taps out a signal onto a telegraph wire, indicating the box number. A receiver at 4-100 then redistributes the signal to horns on 4-100 and on #3’s firehouse on Conklin Ave. Each Fire Company has a tickertape and gongs in quarters to alert the membership and count the box number.
Haverstraw has numerous active pull boxes, as well as blank ‘auto alarm’ boxes, and box assignments for corners without boxes. These boxes, when pulled or activated, cause the horn to sound, the tapes and gongs to run, a ‘quick call’ to sound on the pagers and it digitally sends the location data to Rockland County Fire Control. The radio operator at 44-Control can see the location of the box on the digitizer, ascertain a location, and then announce it over the air. Each box has a numbered code that corresponds to a corner or building in the Village. Box 216 is the corner of Main and Third St’s, for example. Certain codes also give special meaning. Box 1-2 for example is a request for a pumper and the EM, 3-3-3-3 is mutual aid, 1 blast is a fault in the telegraph.
Rockland County Fire Control, or 44-Control, receives data from pulled boxes via a digital control box, or digitizer, located at 4-100. 44-Control will then ascertain the location of the alarm, cause a home alert tone and then announce the location of the alarm. Conversely, when 44-Control receives a telephone alarm or 911 call, they cross reference to the nearest corner box count and send the data back to the digitizer, so in Haverstraw, you hear the box number.
Below is a video of a Saturday Box alarm test. During a test like in the video, the Chief first notified & checked with 44-Control for clear air, and proceded to give 2 manual blasts on the telegraph key. This caused the quick call to sound, which you hear on the pagers. He then pulled the lever to begin the box test. There was no Home Alert or announcement from 44-Control because it was a test.
[flashvideo filename=http://www.gwe2.org/video/GamewellSystem.flv /]
In a real emergency, the box would be activated by pulling the lever, the Horns will blast, the ‘Quick Call’ would page the membership, the digitizer would notify 44-Control who would then broadcast Home Alert tones and announce the location over the air.
Click Here for a Box List