79% of Box Fire Alarms False

Camden Courier-Post - December 19, 1964

Worst Time Is When School's Out, Taverns Close

By Joseph R. McCarthy, Courier-Post Staff

More than 79 per cent of fire alarms reported in Camden through boxes since Jan. 1 were false, according to a statement today by Acting Fire Chief Edward Michalak.

Until noon Dec. 14, 3,040 alarms were sounded. Of this number, 623 were box alarms of which 495 proved to be false.

Of 1,776 alarms by telephone, 97 were false, according to Michalak. He said that 641 other types of alarms were sounded. During the period, city firemen also answered seven bomb scares.

Michalak said the city has 221 alarm boxes, installed at a cost of $350 each.

'Growler' Squaks

A recently installed device on 18 of the boxes is known as a "growler." Michalak said this device, mounted on top of the box, permits a shrieking sound when the alarm is sounded and continues until the alarm is turned off.

Michael Spina [-- Speno, ed.], superintendent of the Electrical Bureau, said these growlers are being moved constantly to different boxes, particularly in those areas where false alarms are prevalent.

The cost of installing a growler on a box is $55. Both officials said that while "it is not the ultimate in preventing false alarms, it is the best thing on the market at present."

Want 'Stiff' Terms

Both said, in noting that a man recently convicted of turning in a false alarm was sentenced to four months in jail, that "a stiff jail sentence would be a greater deterrent than anything else."

Michalak said that firemen must answer every alarm -- at a cost of $150 -- because it is never known whether an alarm is false or not until the equipment arrives at the scene.

Most false alarms occur during school days, according to Michalak, and between the hours of noon and 1 pm when children are en route to lunch, and between 3 and 6 pm when children are not in school. Also, many false alarms are turned in after taverns close at 2 am.

Michalak said he was unaware of any legislation pending to stiffen penalties for turning in a false fire alarm. At present the maximum penalty is $1,000 fine or one year in jail, or both.

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