OT: How are "Fire Truck Alarms" rated

    
Whenever the news reports of a bigger than normal building fire it is described as a two alarm, a three alarm and a whopper is a four alarm fire. I haven't come across a larger one above four alarm yet. What do these numerical fire alarm ratings refer to?
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

It's the number of fire companies that are dispatched to put out the fire.
-- Doug Miller (alphageek at milmac dot com)
How come we choose from just two people to run for president and 50 for Miss America?
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Klm wrote:

back in 1967 when i was a fireman. it was like this: for a small fire or first alarm the called it a box( a box was two engines(pumpers), a ladder truck, a chiefs car... i think thats all... they had a cabinet(a drawer) and pastboard cards in it about 12 inches wide by 5 inches high.. on each card was listed the numbers of the chief car, the engine numbers, the truck(ladder) numbers, etc. and if a rescue squad or not and a snorkle unit or not..... it was like this: striking box( and then the number) this small amount of people would go out.. when getting there if it was a working fire they would call out "strike a TWO ELEVEN" then if more help was needed they would say(probably the chief at this time)-"strike a 3 eleven" and so on... and i think you are right the highest it was marked up was 4 eleven... bet now with some chemical plant fires they probably need more units to fight the fire and they just ask for more assistance..... but remember that when these units were called out.. that they also have to shift other fire engines and trucks to other areas to cover for their being called out and leaving the area where they are from unprotected.......
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Here in Plymouth Michigan the house near me burned down over Christmas. They had at least 10 units of various kinds lined up on the street. I never saw any more than two units attempt anything. Basically, after being sure nobody was inside, they let it burn for hours. So it's not just how many alarms are called out that counts; it's how many units are used.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
MaxAluminum wrote:

i guess you did not see everything Max... kinda funny... man fell from 24 floor of building and landed on the overhead of the first floor.. bones fragments all over the place alot poped on the ground... guy walks up and we were waiting for the fire dept. to take his body down from this 30 ft. high covering over the drivewup area.... he was already DEAD... this guy hears me say to another worker.. gee i wonder what is taking the fire dept. so long to get here( it was no emergency... the doctor already climbed teh shakey ladder to check on him and he was DOA (dead on arrival and he pronounced him dead).. this guy starts getting nervous and starts screaming, "Whats taking the fire dept. so long to get here." he had to be restrained.. think he was taken to the nut ward of the hospital.. he only saw what he thought he saw... when you have a fire. these guys who go out to figtht it will work their butts off the save life and property.. and someone like you comes along and says something stupid like you did... i dont know why i even answered you...... you got to be kidding, right?????
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

You are all pretty much correct. The difference these days is that very few towns still use alarm boxes. The level of alarms does indeed refer to the number of apparatus that respond. A one alram fire (or other incident) for my department will get you 2 pumpers, an aerial truck company, and a district chief. Each additional alarm will get an additional pumper. In larger cities it may get you another full complement of trucks.
With sophisticated CAD (computer-aided dispatch) systems each truck company gets their alarms independently from other stations. We don't have such a luxury. The dispatcher simply tones out another alarm and the next truck in line rolls. We all know which districts we cover as first, second, or third-in trucks. We only have 7 stations in a city of 60,000, so when we have an incident that requires several trucks we have to call in overtime crews to man reserve trucks at the stations.
If a city has the equipment, there is no limit to how many alarms may be called. In some of the trade magazines there are accounts of incidents that required 10 or 11 alarms.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

I've heard of 5 alarmers in the big city (chicago), but they are very rare, at that level like half the FD is involved.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Klm wrote:

The areas of the community to be protected have been identified by the fire department. These geographic areas used to be called box areas as they were associated with the telegraphic fire alarm box that was located in the center of that area. A some what more modern term is a fire service demand zone. Each preidentified area has an assignment table prepared for it based on such factors as the expected fire flow, construction characteristics, population density, and so forth. These assignment tables were historically known as box cards.
The first line of the table identifies the units that will respond to the first report of a fire in that box area or demand zone. These units are usually called the first alarm assignment. When the first arriving unit or command officer encounters a fire that is beyond the capabilities of the first alarm assignment they will call for the second alarm. The dispatcher will then dispatch the units identified on the second line of the table as the second alarm assignment. As the fire continues to exceed or outstrip the capabilities of the units assigned additional alarms are called for. The assignment tables in a small community may only have three alarm levals in them. In major cities the alarm assignments may be preset all the way to the seventh alarm leval. New york City's assignments go all the way to the ninth alarm.
The types and number of units identified in the table for each alarm leval will vary with the resources available and the estimates of need in any given community. Here in Montgomery County, MD for instance the first alarm for an urban box area (that is one protected by hydranted water supply piping) is five engines, three special services (such as ladder companies or heavy rescue squads), and three command officers (Incident commander, Interior commander, and safety officer). The Second alarm assignment on such a box would be four engines, two special services, and two additional command officers. Our tables go up to the fourth alarm. I hope this answers your question. The terms used vary a bit from place to place. So it is a good idea to ask local fire forces how it works in your community.
--
Firefighter/Rescuer Thomas D. Horne speaking for himself and not the
Takoma Park Volunteer Fire Department a cooperating agency of the
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
wrote:

Thanks everyone for your replies. I'll certainly go to the next firehouse open house and ask the questions.
Its so long ago when I lived in a big city that I have forgotten the crowds and the building density that comes with it.
I live in a pleasant 800,000 population city, Edmonton and the buildings are quite well spread out that it is rare to get even a 3 alarm fire. All public access buildings are compliant with the latest fire codes. I don't know about the older buildings but there are only a few of them, two to four storeys high, downtown. The dry air usually means that the stick built houses burn really fast and firefighting usually means preventing the fire from spreading. There is not much one can do for the affected house as, if it is not the fire, water damage will usually be bad enough to require a rebuild.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Here in the 'burbs, where single family houses are pretty common, the FD's has a "mutual aid" agreement, such that any non-trivial fire in an occupiable building is immediately escalated such that the surrounding villages send in companies, so one sees trucks and crews from multiple areas working together.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.