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Caption: Fire Alarm Plan Favors Big Buildings Over HomesBy Dave AndersonFree Press Staff WriterThe new public emergency telephones that are replacing the old fire alarm boxes in Detroit are being located in places where they are more likely to protect large buildings than individual homes, according to a Detroit Fire Department report.Instead of being placed in the most fire prone residential neighborhoods, the new emergency telephones are being concentrated in commercial, industrial and public gathering areas, including downtown.The locations were selected in order to please a number of large fire insurance companies who stand to lose more money from fires in expensive buildings than in the neighborhoods, the report indicated.And, according to Councilwoman Erma Henderson, the poverty areas are getting even less protection even though they have the largest number of fire-related fatalities.A FIRE DEPARTMENT memo released Thursday by Councilwoman Henderson said, "In the near future we shall begin the installation of 2,340 public emergency telephone boxes. The first installations will be in the downtown area."The report, written earlier this year, went on to say, "in order to meet the requirements and recommendations of the Insurance Services Office, these street telephones will be installed in commercial and industrial areas, and near schools, theaters, hospitals, nursing homes, fire stations and places of public assembly."No telephones will be installed in residential areas, unless there is a school, nursing home, etc., in that area."Only if additional street telephones are purchased, according to the report, will they be placed in residential areas.MAURICE ROCHE, chief of the department's communications section, told the City Council Thursday he would prefer that the old alarm boxes in the residential neighborhoods be replaced by telephones because a fire department experiment showed a drastic reduction in the number of false alarms.False alarms have increased 900 percent since 1952, said Roche. In a four-hour period one day last year, the department responded to 440 false alarms.In a near east side neighborhood where telephones were installed on a trial basis, false alarms dropped from 998 to 27 per year.Police Chief Philip Tannian, who handled the changeover to phones when he was an aide to former Mayor Roman Gibbs, said that his recommendation was that the phones be placed both in downtown and in neighborhoods where there were the fewest private phones and the highest rate of false alarms."We never recommended that they not be put in residential neighborhoods," said ..Please turn to Page 5a, Col. 1.
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