Detroit Fire Department Has Alert System Made of Pop Cans, Doorbells

Tresa Baldas, Detroit Free Press, September 6, 2014

Detroit is so broke that firefighters get emergency alerts through pop cans, coins, door hinges, pipes and doorbells.

And they make these gizmos themselves–one involving a pop can that gets tipped over by an incoming fax. The clink of the can means there’s an emergency. Then there’s the chain-reaction gadget: a fax hits a door hinge, which then tugs on a wire, which then sets off a doorbell.

“It sounds unbelievable, but it’s truly what the guys have been doing and dealing with for a long, long time,” said Detroit Deputy Fire Commissioner John Berlin, adding that technological upgrades are long overdue. “We’re in desperate need. We’re probably 30 years behind.”

Berlin’s comments confirmed today’s testimony of a recovery consultant for the city of Detroit, who said at the bankruptcy trial that technological upgrades are long overdue in the city.

The witness, Charles Moore, talked about how the city plans to spend $1.4 billion on services when it emerges from bankruptcy. Technology, he said, needs to be a priority. To bolster his argument, he shared the pop-can, fire-alert story.

Moore said one of his colleagues who spends lots of time at Detroit firehouses told him about it.

Turns out, Moore’s colleague was right: Due to budget constraints, none of the city’s 38 firehouses have the modern-day emergency alert systems that most other cities use.

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.”


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.

According to a 2013 report issued by Orr, response times for both the Fire Department and EMS are “extremely slow” compared to other cities.

The Fire Department’s average time is 7 minutes, and EMS’ response time is 15 minutes. That’s partly due to old trucks and ambulances that are poorly maintained, combined with a never-ending string of incidents, the report found. Detroit has had between 11,000 to 12,000 fires every year for the past decade.



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  • baldowl

    I imagine the term n*****-rigging would be frowned upon, stupidly, so I’ll just utilize the euphemism: Afro-engineering.

    • Michael Robert Ryan

      Dammit, you beat me to it.

      • baldowl

        I burned up a few keys trying to get that in first LOL

    • APaige

      If the ad-hoc system actually works does that euphemism apply?

      • baldowl

        Sure. Securing your car’s bumper with bungee cords works just fine, too.

        • HTP

          I once saw one of their cars with a glass bottle taped in and substituted for a headlight.

    • Tarczan

      The term in pc circles is “ghetto-rigged”.

      • Jury-rigged if you’re a sailor.

    • Ike Eichenberg

      I don’t know if it’s applicable. Even with reverse discrimination I’d bet a disproportionate number of the lower rank Detroit Firemen are white.

      The PD was 4 times the white portion of the population at 34% but I could not find any FD demographics.

      I’d also expect anything that tells the firemen it is time to go to work would not likely have an African origin.

      You might just be reading about European ingenuity in dealing with African managed entities.

      • baldowl


  • [Guest]

    In short, parts of the U.S. are coming to resemble post-colonial Africa … and for the same reasons.

    • Johnny

      More like Pre-Colonial.

      • Conrad

        Well, there some junked cars around. So maybe it’s post-colonial.

      • [Guest]

        Yes, but I said “post-colonial” because the remnants of white civilization are still there to flummox the natives.

    • Bon, From the Land of Babble

      You don’t say:

      • [Guest]

        Ah, the glories of black culture and civilization!

      • Francis Miville

        American Blacks should be dumped onto the radical Islamic states to bring them back to stone age.

    • Melvin Bonzarelli

      Post-colonial Africa looks a lot like pre-colonial Africa. Once the whites left, it was 5,000 B.C. again, all over Africa.

      • [Guest]

        True, only after the evil white man left, the magic wires that brought light and the magic pipes that brought water no longer functioned as before. When the white man left, his magic departed with him.

        • In Zimbabwe, the bandits who have occupied white-owned commercial farms don’t grow anything. In fact, they normally dig up the irrigation pipes to sell for scrap metal. I imagine they have done the same with copper wiring. In one case I read about, they slaughtered a prize dairy cow they had seized in order to butcher and eat it.

  • Johnny

    I know some folks in some states are talking about secession. Is there any provision in the US Constitution, or any State Constitution, for booting a city or state out of the Union? Something like putting them on waivers? Let some other poor suckers pay for them? I have some in mind.

    • journey

      If this country can do what you are suggesting, might as well go all the way and deport the savages. This nation should not give up one inch of soil that whites sacrificed and died for.

  • dd121

    Left to their own devices they always revert to their African norm.

    • Bon, From the Land of Babble

      No kidding…Look at This!!

      • none of your business

        My brothers made better forts when they were 8 years old.

  • Tarczan

    “We’re in desperate need. We’re probably 30 years behind.”

    And in fifty years they will be 100 years behind.

    • bilderbuster

      In 50 years the current population of Detroit will have been returned to Africa along with all of their brethren currently living in the western hemisphere and the city will have been razed and rebuilt.
      The whole western world might look like Detroit.

  • It’s Bush’s fault. It’s always his fault.

    I saw this story on a mainstream site the other day and noted that the liberals always come out in full force to deny the importance of race. So, they’re left with calling out Republican job outsourcing as the cause of Detroit’s troubles.

    Sadly, most conservatives blamed it on the Democrat liberal policies. Too many conservatives have bought into egalitarianism. Blacks are just like whites except for the color of their skin, according to them, which we here on amren know to be untrue.

    We still have a lot of work to do to wake up conservatives to reality.

    • bilderbuster

      Most Whites that say those things don’t really believe that.
      They want it to be true so they say it to feel good about their noble wishes.

      • MBlanc46

        Or they say it in public because it can be trouble not to, but in private say “G-d n—-s”.

        • bilderbuster

          How many times have Obama’s White and Jewish handlers said that in frustration?

          • MBlanc46

            I don’t consort with such people, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the number is greater than zero.

      • [Guest]

        I hope you’re right. If they don’t really think that way, however, why do they behave as if they did?

    • Detroit outsourced a lot of work because the union members in the auto industry spent quite some years sabotaging cars to “get back” at management. The resulting “lemons” caused quite a lot of American consumers to behin buying Swedish, German or Japanese vehicles, especially after the massive oil-price hike in 1973 made the traditional American large “tuna boat” sedan more expensive to run.

      When I was growing up, my parents had a 1964 VW Beetle, a 1970 Volvo 164 and a 1980 Mazda RX-7. Their first car, before I was born was a DeSoto, so they didn’t have any philosophical thing against US cars. My first – and only – new car was a 1995 Saturn SL-2, and I still feel crestfallen that GM discontinued the line.

      • bilderbuster

        I have an older friend who’s father bought him a new 1979 Monte Carlo.
        The Monte Carlo logo (a plastic piece that looked chrome and spelled Monte Carlo) above the glove box was upside down.
        He was driving and the “check oil” dummy light came on.
        When he popped the hood to check his oil there was no dipstick or any way at all to check the oil. Only the place to add the oil.
        This had to be intentional at the plant but it was still inexcusable that it got past the dealer.

      • Tarczan

        Do you ever watch any of those car shows on TV where they auction off old cars? I don’t understand it, they were made with planned obsolesence in mind and yet they pay big money for that junk. Almost any newer car of today is way better than the cars of the past in every way. I had a bunch of Saturns, I liked that car, finally got rid of my Sw-2,: I hit a deer and just didn’t want to fix it.

        • One thing to remember is that technology has improved: 4-wheel disc brakes, power steering, shoulder-harness seat belts, crumple zones, antilock brakes, etc. Quality control also improved dramatically in every sector of manufacturing as spin-off benefit of the space program. In 1965, nobody in their right mind wanted a used car with 50,000 miles on it. Today, you wouldn’t think twice, because 50K is almost nothing.

    • [Guest]

      >>>…most conservatives blamed it on the Democrat liberal policies….

      I fell for that one too for about 30 seconds after I heard it for the first time a quarter-century ago. Since then I’ve been tired of that excuse.

      We need to admit once and for all that the problem with blacks is that they’re black.

  • Bon, From the Land of Babble

    More innovative photos from the Detroit Fire House:


      Ha! Key cleaner. Oh man that’s too funny. That’s a great post Bon, I needed a good laugh. “The Door Bell Is Missing, Please Shake Bottle Of Rocks”,, Ha!

    • Sangraal

      I’m impressed by their resourcefulness. MacGyver would be proud.

  • Melvin Bonzarelli

    In the Tarzan movies, the natives would start banging on their drums to warn everyone in the village that a herd of elephants was rampaging through the jungle on its way to trample the village. Why doesn’t the Detroit FD and PD bring back the jungle drums? At least it would make the folks in town feel a lot more at home.

    • bilderbuster

      Because they know that Tarzan won’t put up with their crap.

  • Melvin Bonzarelli

    It was probably a black fireman who came up with the idea of the bottle of rocks to replace the missing door alarm. Those people are sharp, no question about it.

    • [Guest]

      >>>Those people are sharp, no question about it.

      Sharp as a bottle of rocks, yeah.

  • shmo123

    Sounds like something out of a black three stooges short. Johnson, Washington and Jackson all coming down the fire pole at the same time.


    Well, at least they have a Firefighting community that demographically looks, feels and acts like the population they serve. Unlike those big meanies in Ferguson who’s Police Force is still majority White and still quite capable and competent.

  • “We’re in desperate need. We’re probably 30 years behind.”
    –Detroit Deputy Fire Commissioner John Berlin

    That’s probably an accurate estimation of the time frame. According to the 2010 US census was 82.7% black (Wikipedia), out of a population of 713,777. Thirty years before, the 1980 census showed 1,203,368, thus a decrease of 40.7% has occurred. That figure certainly understates the decline in Detroit’s municipal tax base, because the people who stayed behind are far more likely to be net consumers of tax money – via “gibsmedat” programs and law-enforcement expenses – than net taxpayers. When population replacement via ethnic cleansing in a city drives out its productive residents and thereby kills its tax base, things like fire departments become difficult to afford.

  • Bon, From the Land of Babble

    When will America’s demented liberals ever come to their senses?

    When there is nowhere left to run.

  • Waldemar Daninsky

    If a fax machine works, then it means that they must have phone lines. I imagine it would be too difficult to call the firemen on the phone and tell them where the fire is.

  • Biff_Maliboo

    Hold on a sec.

    Just need to fax this report of a fire to the Rube Goldberg Fire Dept.

  • Bill

    11,000 fires a year. Most homes’ water is shut off. The FD is using pop cans and door bells for alarms.
    Yeah, 40 years of Democrats running the city is “OOOOOO-TAY!!”.

    • Paleoconn

      Liberals run New England and Pittsburgh and Seattle, too. How come those places aren’t in the same mess as Detroit?

      • Bill

        There’s enough common sense in the few conservatives that are mixed in that they keep things on an even keel………Detroit has so many labor unions (27) that the city couldn’t keep afloat. Even the school crossing guards were unionized. Plus, pensioners were given any surplus money that temporarily came in, when it should have been kept for lean times.
        That should keep you busy for a while. Any more info you need you can google it.

        • Paleoconn

          OK, I’ll give you a clue as to why Detroit is in the state it’s in. It’s the rhymes with plaques.

  • none of your business

    When the Portuguese landed in S. Africa they found that although the locals had fire, they had not yet learned to cook food with fire.
    The ate their meat and plants raw because they had not yet figured out how to cook. i believe even the Aussie Abos cooked when discovered by Whites.