I was raised in a family of firefighters where the fire department was all they knew. It was lifestyle all of its own. The atmosphere at home instilled in me thoughts of pride and the desire to help people. When Rick and Paula approached me to write something for the new website, little did I know that I would be trying to recall important moments in my life, as they happened, dating back to the 1970's? I never really had the time or interest to keep a diary, or maybe I just had other thoughts about it, but it’s probably a good idea now in retrospect.
The Whately Fire Department was second nature in my home. It always seemed that there was someone missing from our dinner table because they were out on a call or for one fire related reason or another. It was interesting to me when the department received an emergency call for help, because the dispatcher could of been sitting there at the table with you… or you, yourself that day, were the actual dispatcher. You see, in my day, an emergency phone was answered by volunteers in their homes, across town, on a "red" fire phone system. Volunteers would answer the emergency calls twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, in one of six locations. The call taker could also activate the fire siren at the fire station over the system to notify the other volunteers. When the first person arrived at the station they would answer the fire phone again to receive the nature of the emergency and the location of the person in need.
Communication systems have advanced so much in the past forty years, from the fire phone system of yesterday, to the EMERGENCY 911 and communications centers we have now. And, let’s not forget the town-wide twelve and six o'clock fire siren, advancing to pagers and cell phone text messaging.
How in the world did the emergency services even operate back then… the real question is, where will we be in the next forty years?
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Chief Hannum began his career with the Whately Fire Department Muster Team. He travelled across the northeast and competed in many events. The team was very successful and took countless wins. In 1973 he enlisted in the United States Air Force as a Fire Protection Specialist. His training and experience propelled him into the civilian fire service. In 1978 he became an EMT, an Intermediate in 1986, and an EMT/Paramedic in 1994, and is a practicing medic presently. Furthering his career in 1982, he worked for the Amherst Fire Department and received his training from the Massachusetts and National Fire Academies. He has also served as the president of the Firefighters Local 1764 for 5 years. John was appointed Fire Chief of Whately Massachusetts in 2003 where he still is today.