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Brief History of Two-Way Radios in the YFD

Most people (or firefighters for that matter) don’t usually give a second thought to radio communications. Every firefighter, truck and station nowadays has at least one radio. Spare portables in drop in chargers line the shelves in offices and on the apparatus floor. Two way radios are a lifeline on the fire ground. Radios are one of the most important pieces of equipment at a firefighter’s disposal. It wasn’t always like that thought. The earliest form of communication between stations and between other firefighting units were fire alarm telegraph systems. These systems consisted of fire boxes, miles of cabling, and a specific series of taps on small keying device inside the fire box. Need additional companies. tap two times-pause-tap two more times pause-tap two more time then tap the box number to bring more fire trucks and men to the scene. Bells and tape machines would activate at all the stations, the alarm room, the fire chiefs house, the waterworks and sometimes even the mayor’s house. Eventually the fire stations in Youngstown would receive telegraph keys in the stations which would allow a trained operator to send and receive communications from one location to another. One big problem with this system was that there was no way to communicate with trucks heading to or returning from a call. There were no mobile radios in the trucks. If a call came in while a truck was ‘out of service’ returning to their quarters, another fire unit would take that ‘run’. Sometimes they would cross paths with the other fire truck on the street.

On July 3, 1942, the fire department purchased two-way receiving and transmitting sets so that fire department officials could communicate out in the field with fire headquarters. Finally, companies could be redirected to other calls before they got back to their stations, providing the chief was also in proximity of them with the radio when the call went out.

True modernization occurred on December 26, 1956 when all of the fire department units were equipped with two way radios. The Federal Communications Commission assigned the Youngstown Fire Department the radio call sign K.Q.G. -300 and gave them permission to operate on a frequency of 154.37 megacycles for transmission and 154.010 megacycles for mobile units.

Code keys like the one in this Youngstown fire call box were a common method of communicating in the days before two way radios.

Photos from the January 13, 1957 Youngstown Vindicator Rotogravure Section.

Eventually, the Youngstown Fire Department would receive a new call sign, one you still hear to this day mentioned at the start of the 8:05am morning test, K.N.E.K 691.

00:00 / 01:23

8:05 daily radio test.

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