Sunday, February 6, 2011 -
It has been tradition of the fire service to ring the fire bell in remembrance of a fallen comrade. In recent months I have been asked time and time again as to the number and sequence of bell rings. I have recommended the Signal 5-5-5-5. This was the telegraph signal used by the FDNY when alarms were received by street boxes and the telegraph machines tapped out a sequence that struck the firehouse bells. The telegraph box signal of 5 bells followed by 5 more bells for a total of 4 rounds of 5 bells was the signal to all city firehouses to lower the flag to half staff due to a line of duty death of a firefighter. The terminology of the signal 5-5-5-5 has remained as part of the FDNY lexicon to announce the passing of a fire department member whether currently on the job or retired. The announcement usually starts out with, "A signal 5-5-5-5 has been transmitted for the death of firefighter... It is with regret that the department ..." The ringing of the fire bell at ceremonies or funerals emulates this signal and the bell is rung using the sequence of 4 rounds of 5 rings. I hope this helps to clear up any confusion.