A Basic History of Fire Alarm Systems

From a very young age, we are indoctrinated with the importance of fire safety. We all know not to touch hot pots on the stove or leave candles burning when we leave the house, and almost all of us have learned how to stop, drop, and roll. The ultimate goal, however, is never to have to stop, drop, and roll, which is due in large part to fire alarm systems. Illinois residents have been using these systems for years to keep their homes and families safe in the event of an emergency. However, these safety features have not always been around. Keep reading for a brief history of the fire alarm systems we’ve come to rely on.

Early Beginnings
Fire alarms date back to as early as 1658! Of course, they were quite a bit simpler than the advanced systems we’re used to today. Back then, alarms existed in the form of some of New York’s finest men deployed to walk the streets looking for fires. They carried with them buckets on ladders and ringing bells in order to warn the community of a fire. In tightly crowded apartments, an extra few seconds could save dozens of lives.

The 1800s
By the beginning of the 1800s, fire alarm systems had advanced quite a bit. Permanent bell towers popped up around cities to warn citizens of impending flames. In 1852, a new progression occurred! The advent of the telegraph system meant that two alarm boxes with a telegraphic key could now be used to report neighborhood fires. One person would simply crank the handle attached to the box, releasing the key that sent out the message to the central alarm station. The telegrapher would then send out the location of the fire to the local fire department.

Electric Fire Alarms
As we entered the 20th century, the electric fire alarm system had entered the picture. This was the first time that thermostats were used to detect heat, which would then trigger a sprinkler system to displace a fire. This invention also led to the birth of fire protection services. As fire protection grew as an industry, so did the technology, giving us the advanced units we have today!


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