Friday, April 17, 2009

Naval Station Norfolk Fire Alarm Box

This is a picture of one of many fire alarm boxes found throughout Naval Station Norfolk. This particular box we believe dates back to the pre-Naval Station Norfolk days of the 1907 Jamestown Exposition. It is still in use by Naval Station Norfolk's fire department today.

The box might not be a 1907 product, however, as there is a question of who actually manufactured it. The logo and writing are from the Gamewell Company of Massachusetts (now known as Gamewell-FCI, Inc.), one of the early pioneers of large scale, urban fire alarm systems. The text on the box is not modern. However, according the Jamestown Exposition Company's official history of the fair, the company's Division of Works claimed to have signed a contract with Western Electric Manufacturing, one of Gamewell's business rivals. It is possible that Gamewell installed this particular box when the Navy took over the property in 1917.

Regardless if workers installed the box in 1907 or 1917, its concept remains fundamentally the same today as back then (though the technology inside the box has been upgraded). When the alarm is set off, the box sends a series of telegraph signals by an underground wire to the emergency dispatch operator, who then dispatches fire and rescue services.

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