Friday, April 23, 2010

the squawk box

There's this thing called a squawk box that resides in all firehalls and it looks like a brown speaker from the 70's. Apart from the firetruck, the box is one of the most important tools linking the firefighter to the call. They're mounted on the wall close to the ceiling in every room.... from the bay, to the kitchen, the dorm, even the bathroom. See?

in the bathroom:

in the dorm:

in the kitchen:

And so they hang, most innocuously and mostly unnoticed until the alarm goes off. In actuality, there's no alarm.... it's four beeps or rather, four 'tones' in quick succession that snaps you to attention no matter what you're in the middle of doing. The printer spits out the map, and more details and the dispatcher continues to give important information over the box with updates on the truck radio.

In the dark of night, the tones can wake the dead. It's a weird and slightly uncomfortable feeling getting jolted wide awake at 3 am and get your butt going to the call. Because we're a two truck hall, we train ourselves to hear the tones and see which truck dispatch is calling. If it's not our truck, we usually fall right back asleep with one eye or ear open.

Last shift I was on the ladder truck and the pumper went out close to midnight. I went down for some shut-eye and did not hear them come back. Nor did I hear the tones go off at 3 am for the pumper to go out, and didn't hear them come back again. So in essence, I slept completely through the call. Big no no. But I was lucky I was on the other truck so it didn't matter anyway but it's always a creepy feeling when you sleep through an alarm. I must have been really, really tired. Thankfully, I know that if it was my truck getting toned and I slept through it, the guys would have kicked my bunk to get my sorry ass out of bed.

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