Government Technology reports  Boston is looking for proposals  from vendors on how to upgrade the city's network of 2,200 fire alarm boxes, which still use the same basic telegraph technology as when they were first installed in 1852.
"We're interested in having multiple communication types and really enhancing the ability to send more specific messages so that we can use them for both emergency and non-emergency purposes, but also get more specific messages," [Deputy Fire Commissioner Justin] Brown said. "Is this actually a fire? Is this a law enforcement call? Do you need medical assistance? And maybe be able to communicate back and forth."
When an alarm on one of the boxes is pulled, it sends a series of tones to the department's dispatching center, identifying its number, which dispatchers then use to dispatch firefighters. Even when calls come in via more modern technologies, such as telephones, dispatchers always identify the nearest alarm box in their broadcasts to fire crews.