Detroit Fire Department History – March 1, 1958
The department discontinued wakeful night watches. A new system called the Silent Watch System went into effect. Use of running boards to track which companies were in or out of service was also discontinued.
Prior to the Silent Watch System a man stood wakeful night watch. From midnight to 6:30 am the man on watch listened for alarms punched out on the Gamewell system. The system punched out box numbers for every alarm that was dispatched throughout the city and the status of every fire company was kept up to date on the station’s running board.
When an alarm came in the man on watch was responsible for determining if his company was due on the alarm. If their company was due he would activate the house bell to wake the other firefighters and turning on station lights.
With the Silent Watch System first alarms would only be received in firehouses that are due on the alarm. The dispatcher pushes an alert button that wakes the man on watch and tells him an alarm is coming in. All second alarms and higher were still sounded via the “big bells” in all stations.
Chief of Department Ed Blohm, who was scheduled to retire in June of 1958, did not like the new system, but went along with it. He said “It doesn’t look right. Imagine a citizen dashing up to turn in an alarm and there is Julius, snoozing.”
Dan Delegato, Detroit Firefighters’ Association (union) President said “The most sought after working condition since the inception of this association has been the elimination of the wakeful night watch.” (NOTE: The Detroit Firefighters’ Association was chartered on May 8, 1933)
The Association hailed this step as removing one of the most tedious chores connected with the work of a Detroit firefighter.