Dayton Fire Department’s Communication System 1936 vs 1980

Dayton Fire Department’s Communication System 1936 vs 1980

The photo above is the original paging encoder and pager from the 1980 equipment upgrade from 1936. These items are on display in the Dayton Fire Department's memorabilia case at Station 1 on Market Street.

Dayton Fire Department's old Electric Siren, now just a memory.

Today, when either one of the Dayton Fire Department's two stations receives a call to respond to an incident within the city limits; that call comes from the Rhea County Emergency 911 Center located in Evensville, Tennessee. With the click of a mouse on a computer, the on-duty dispatcher can notify all the on-duty fire personnel with City of Dayton Fire Department of the incident. Fire departments all across America today uses the most up to date forms of technology in communication. Let us now take a look back through the years at some of the then modern forms of communication used by the Dayton Fire Department at the time.

Dayton's new fire hall on Main Street was just two years old in 1936, when the fire department received their new Electric Siren. The new siren was installed on the roof top of the fire hall. Once installed, it was given its first test and it was again tested late that night to see how it would sound in the still of the night. This new modern form of communication would allow the town's volunteer firemen to be notified that there was a fire. The city was divided into sections and a series of signals on the siren would indicate which section of town the fire call was located. Firemen then had to drive around the section of town indicated by the siren looking for the fire or fire truck.

According to then Fire Chief Denny Zonnas, the new Electric Siren was costly to the city but the department felt it would be well worth the money in helping the firemen to make a faster response to fire calls. Many local organizations and businesses stepped up to make donations to help the city pay for the new system. The Electric Siren type of system was used by Dayton through February of 1980, when the fire department modernized it's communications equipment.

On February 19, 1980, only two years after the new Fire Station was built on south Market Street, the City of Dayton Police and Fire Departments received a brand new modern communications system. This system was complete with both a base radio as well as mobile units for every city owned emergency vehicle. Also included with the new equipment was the new Emergency Paging System. This allowed the dispatcher to notify all of the fire department's volunteer firemen of the exact location of any fire calls that came into the station. Firemen would carry a small red pager which clipped on their belt. Anytime a call was received, the dispatcher would activate the pagers with a loud ringing tone similar to the old wind up alarm clocks of yesteryears. Firemen could then proceed to the location of the call based on the voice communications from the dispatcher after the pager was activated. One of Dayton's police and fire dispatchers at that time was Debbie Ellis. She performed a test page of this new paging system as Dayton's Fire Chief Jack Arnold, Asst. Chief Tony Reavley and fireman Dennis Kirby looked on. This new system replace the old Electric Siren which had been in use since 1936.

Anyone, who ever lived in the downtown Dayton area during this time, can still remember the long sound of the high and low howl that rang out of the "old fire whistle", as the citizens often referred to it by its distinctive sound. It was a sound that one could always recognize when an alert went out.

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Published byDean

Born and raised in Dayton Tennessee, I have served in various public service positions in the past. I have a great interest in the History of our town. This site is a way for me to share some of the great history of the area.

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