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In the early days frequently firemen were called by a bugle this was not as unusual as it sounds, remembering that in those days the armed forces used that same method to pass messages such a Meals, Lights Out, Reveille, Parades etc and more often than not the instructions of the commander such as Advance, Retreat, Charge etc was passed to all ranks in that way. Lesser known calls included Fire etc were also available and used.

The call out system around the turn of that century in Andover was a bell in the Town Hall Tower which the caller could ring to alert the brigade.
The caller went to the tower, opened a window kept unlocked for that purpose, reach inside, locate the bell rope and use it to ring the bell. The bell probably had an unusual note so that it would not be confused with other bells and would be recognised by firemen.

To augment this there was also a hand siren or horn kept at a butchers and when alerted, the butcher’s boy jogged up and down the high street with the horn under his arm sounding it off. The noise was said to be harmful to those with illness. One wonders how they would have reacted to the war time siren.
None of this explained how a stranger was expected to know where or how to find out how to alert the brigade or where to find the rope call out system of the bell.

It was not until a fire in 1901 went unattended causing a heavy loss of property and close to eighty children and parents made homeless, as well as considerable loss of property that public opinion recognised the potential failings of the system and made their feeling known to the councilors which caused a rethink by them.

Even then they had to research and understand the possibilities of a new phone system and its availability as a link to a bell in firemen's homes as a call out system. So perhaps a delay was inevitable. Of course the fireman were not always at home so the call out boy still had to be retained, he had to tour the local roads and work places alerting the firemen.
There was too the contract to be negotiated and the work mostly overhead telephone lines to be put in hand. It took a total of twenty one months but was much applauded when finally commissioned.

But this did not solve the problem of how those with a fire alerted the fire brigade when they were needed. There are records in the log of telegrams being sent and messengers with a variety of transport but it all took time. In the mean time fires sometimes spread to surrounding risks. There is a least one record of a message being sent “don't bother to come it's too late" .Sometimes even a "we are not coming" message was sent by the brigade especially if water was not available. 1913 has a couple of examples.

Today where the retained system is used the call out system is radio controlled.