Thirty-five years ago this week, Hamden Chronicle reporter Robin Chait visited the alarm room at Station 4 to do a story about Hamden's four civilian fire dispatchers, newly appointed under Civil Service.
The Town started employing part-time civilian fire dispatchers under the Comprehensive Employment Training Act (CETA) in 1976, ostensibly to save money by returning four Grade AIII firefighters to line duties. The move was very controversial. Many in the department were concerned that civilians lacked the necessary practical experience to handle the many different kinds of emergency situations that dispatchers encounter. Adding to the tension, the four former firefighter dispatchers who were reassigned back to the line were all twenty-plus year veterans, two of them well over sixty years of age.
However, once the CETA dispatchers, both male and female, began working together with the firefighters under the same roof a mutual respect developed between the two groups. The civilians proved themselves very adept at dispatching, benefiting greatly from the experience gleaned from the officers and firefighters they worked with at Station 4.
After three years as a temporary CETA job, the position of civilian fire dispatcher became a full-time civil service position in late 1979. The four ladies photographed with Chief Leddy, all seasoned veterans of the CETA days, were appointed. Each of them worked the same 3-on-3-off schedule as the firefighters, except each dispatcher worked her first two days on the last two days of one platoon, and her final day on the first day of the next platoon.
Hamden's new civilian fire dispatchers had finally arrived. But the ladies' days working at Station 4 as "fire dispatchers" were numbered . . .
The Hamden Chronicle, Thursday, February 18, 1981 (Courtesy of Gilbert Spencer)
With the introduction of 9-1-1 a few months after the above newspaper photo was taken, Hamden's fire and police chiefs agreed to combine their dispatch facilities and personnel. At 0800 on Thursday, November 19, 1981 the Hamden Fire Department alarm room at Station 4 closed and Central Communications opened in the basement of the old Miller Liberary building. Hamden's four fire dispatchers joined their Hamden Police Department counterparts being cross-trained to dispatch for both agencies. And it worked.
A Nice Backstory . . .
The very attractive young lady on Chief Leddy's left in the photo above, identified as Margaret Smith in the caption, is known to all her friends as "Marty." While working as a Hamden fire dispatcher, Marty met a young Hamden firefighter. Shortly thereafter she became Mrs. Mark Barletta.
Mark Barletta retired in 2006 as Hamden's fire marshal. He also was the first president of the Hamden Fire Retirees Association. Mark and Marty are now grandparents living in sunny Florida. They are also the parents of HFD Captain Adam Barletta.
During the summer of 1971 the Hamden firefighters hired from late 1969 through mid-1970 were bussed each day from Hamden to the Willimantic Fire School. There they joined new hires from other departments for training in basic hands-on firefighting. Then-Lieutenant Jack Laffin accompanied the group as the department's supervising officer.
(Photos courtesy of Doug Yocher)
Hamden firefighters can be identified by the new flip-flop clear visors on their helmets. Looks like Joe Mulligan on the extreme RH side (above).
L-R: Firefighters Bob Macauley, John Reynolds, Joe Mulligan and Ralph Dievert