Long before the Internet was invented, or telephones and radios were used across our great nation, fire departments used the telegraph to communicate - using special codes to receive fire alarms from those once-familiar red fire alarm boxes, which stood on practically every street corner in America. When a firefighter was killed, or in the language of the military and public safety: "fell", in the line of duty, the fire alarm office would tap out a special signal.
This would be tapped out as five measured dashes - then a pause - then five more measured dashes. This came to be known as the Tolling of the Bell and was broadcast over the telegraph fire alarm circuits to all station houses in the vicinity. Heard outside on the streets - with the fire department's windows open, the resonating echo was similar to that of fire stations of old where fire alarm gongs sounded the locations of thousands of emergencies throughout the history of our growing country. This was done for the purpose of notification as a sign of honor and respect for all firefighters who have made the ultimate sacrifice in service to their communities. Such symbolism has been a time-honored fire service tradition and is repeated at each service of a fallen firefighter.