FIRE-ALARMS AND AUTOMATIC FIRE EXTINGUISHERS
Too Long; Didn't ReadAssuming that a town has a well-appointed fire brigade, equipped with the most up-to-date engines, it still cannot be considered efficiently protected against the ravages of the fire-fiend unless the outbreak of a fire can be notified immediately to the stations, and local mechanical means of suppression come into action almost simultaneously with the commencement of the conflagration. "What you do, do quickly" is the keynote of successful fire-suppression; and its importance has been practically recognised in the invention of hundreds of devices, some of which we will glance at in the following pages.
The electric circuit is the most valuable servant that we have to warn us of danger. Dotted about the streets are posts carrying at the top a circular box, which contains a knob. As soon as a fire is observed, anyone may run to such a post, smash the glass screening the knob, and pull out the latter. This action flashes the alarm to the nearest fire-station, and a few minutes later an engine is dashing to the rescue. Help may also be summoned by means of the ordinary telephone exchanges or from police-stations in direct telephonic communication with the brigade depôts.
All devices depending for their ultimate value on human initiative leave a good deal to be desired. They presuppose conditions which may be absent. For instance, an electric wire in a large factory ignites some combustible material during the night. A passer-by may happen to see flames while the fire is in an early stage. On the other hand, it is equally probable that the conflagration may be well established before the alarm is given, with the result that the fire brigade arrives too late to do much good.