When it comes to fighting fires, every second counts so the Perryville Volunteer Fire Company decided to take additional steps to get apparatus on the road to blazes quickly in 1953. With that objective in mind, the company launched a “new 24 hour fire alarm system” on November 12, 1953, a decade before a professionally staffed, countywide dispatch system went on the airwaves.
In the event of an emergency, residents phoned Perryville 2222, a dedicated number installed in the all night restaurant, the Whistle Stop, and the Fire Station. The cashier handling the register would promptly answer the special phone, obtain the necessary information, and activate the siren.
This arrangement enabled the engine to get underway in a matter of minutes. Originally the company had hoped to locate a night watchmen to take calls. But when that plan didn’t work out, the Whistle Stop’s management, J. W. Calary and Reuben Whistler, “owners of the all night fire house or restaurant” stepped forward.
The next month the system demonstrated its effectiveness. An urgent call was received at the restaurant about 1:55 a.m. as a blaze was ripping through downtown Elkton, and additional pumpers were desperately needed in the county seat. Minutes after the cashier sounded the alarm, Perryville’s engine was “on route 40 racing to Elkton” with “an adequate crew, sleepy-eyed, but ready.” The response was critical in helping to save Main Street Elkton, as the Perryville unit started pumping water from the creek to help the towns overloaded public water system.
The Whig congratulated the fire company for creating a system that hastened the volunteer response and had “trucks on their way in a matter of minutes. But more dispatching enhancements were in the works. The next year the “alarm button” was moved to the Susquehanna Toll Bridge. Chief James Thomas, working with the recently established Perryville Chamber of Commerce, had been instrumental in getting the State Highway Commission to agree to have the communications equipment installed in the new administration building.