Tresa Baldas with the Detroit Free Press got a first hand look at how Detroit’s fire departments get word that there’s a fire they need to respond to. It’s absurd and frightening to know that someone’s life and property might hinge on a soda can filled with coins or screws. You can’t help but laugh because otherwise you’d be pretty pissed.
This system and others from in the area seem to work at least, even if they are makeshift jobs that probably shouldn’t exist. The reason they do though stems from Detroit’s ongoing budget issues and the city’s bankruptcy. From Detroit Free Press:
In most cities, fire officials say, when an emergency alert comes into a fire station, a series of bells sound off — like Morse code. Then an automated voice offers instructions on which engines go where.
“Well, we don’t have that system here,” Berlin said. “The firefighters modify … they improvise…”
In other words, Berlin said, they make the alert systems themselves, buying simple materials like wire and doorbells and hinges from the hardware store or Radio Shack. Or, they just set an empty pop can by a fax machine, sometimes filling it with coins. Some, he said, set a pipe that sounds like a wind chime near a printer, where the paper alert comes out.
“We’re way, way behind the curve. The guys are very creative in these firehouses and that’s why you see these pop cans,” Berlin said.
Response times suffer due to these technological disadvantages, with 7 minutes for fire calls and 15 minutes for EMS. Luckily the improvised solutions and setbacks haven’t been forgotten:
Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr has made public safety a cornerstone of his $1.4 billion reinvestment strategy over the next 10 years, with $42 million carved out for fire department upgrades, including technology systems.
So not a firefighting Robocop type individual? You’re letting me down Detroit. Don’t make me sell you to a private corporation.